About growingalliances

Building sustainable communities through permaculture and entrepreneurial programs in schools

4 Reasons Students Should Garden

Getting youth to spend time outside of their home is difficult. Being consumed by media in this century locks many of the kiddos that we want to see at the garden spending time flourishing into young adults. Let’s take a look into the reasons why you should garden.

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  1. More energy: Surrounding yourself with the tools, smells, and people in a garden activate a part of your body that brings 60 minutes of more energy to your day. According to a recent survey done by the University of Auckland and the University of Tampere in New Zealand, it was found that students reported being active at least 60 minutes or more than students who did not take part in gardening.

 

  1. Cutting out fast food: One amazing fact about taking part in growing a garden is the availability of fruits and vegetables once they’re ready to harvest. At Growing Alliances, students often take a few of the veggies they grow back home to eat. Surveys have shown that students who participated in gardening have a significantly lower amount of fast food available at home. If you’re looking to eat healthier and save money, find your nearest garden and seek options of volunteering. From Bellingham, find out how you can get involved with our next work party by visiting growingallliances.org

 

  1. Family meals: Spending time in a garden opens up a world of new ideas and thoughts about the way food is processed. Not only that, but it brings people together. Even if it’s just two or three people in a garden, the connection being built in the plot of land extends all the way home when eating with your family. Students who participated in gardening were more likely to share frequent meals with their family than students without a garden according to the survey by the University of Auckland and the University of Tampere. Next time you have a chance to eat with your family, take it.

 

  1. Fruits and vegetables: A no brainer. You can’t work in a garden and not like fruits/vegetables. Surveys have shown that students were more than twice as likely to meet the recommended daily serving of fruit and vegetables when working in a garden.
By |December 6th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Lessons Learned from the 2018 Youth Empowerment & Employment Program

2018 Lessons Learned

With each season, our Program Developers and Executive Director learn more about what activities, policies and trainings the youth thrive in or reject. During the season, staff meet to discuss what immediate changes can or should be made to provide a better learning environment for the Garden Crew, however some qualities are so integrated into the program that they are difficult to modify during the season. At the end of the season, Program Developer and the Executive Director meet to completely dissect what worked and what didn’t, and determine how to rebuild the program into something that will create better outcomes for 2019. Below are some lessons we’ve learned from this season that will influence modifications we’ll be making for next season.

Professional Development Training Improvements

  • Refrain from using the term ‘workshop’, since it sounds too casual and isn’t a term the youth will hear in future employment. Use the term ‘training’ or ‘professional development’.

  • Before each training, each youth will review the provided desired outcomes and reflect on how these outcomes relate to their personal career goals and necessary skills.

  • After each training, reflect on what was learned, further questions and what ideas need elaboration or reiteration.

  • Make sure all trainings relate closely to the job and food production, otherwise there isn’t the incentive to listen and learn the material. Having trainings directly related gives youth the opportunity to continuously practice the new skills on the job until they are thoroughly learned.

  • Repeat trainings until they’re fully absorbed and utilized.

Programmatic Improvements

  • During orientation, show each Crew Member the curriculum so they fully understand the program and can clarify any questions/concerns before diving in to work.

  • More COOKING! Ensure the Garden Crew has full comprehension and appreciation for preparing food from seed to plate. Preparing food will give the Crew Members more to look forward to and more to be proud of when they can graduate from the program not only knowing how to grow food, but also know a variety of ways to prepare the produce they grew.

  • Facilitate more team development at beginning of the season. This is to improve workplace relationships, communication and demeanor. Having strong and healthy workplace relationships will also provide an incentive, besides payment, to come to work and work hard.

  • Create methods to smoothly transition new Crew Members into the group if they join the program later in the season. It is not uncommon for Crew Members to join the team later in the season and we want to ensure they feel like part of the team as soon as possible.

  • Have an end goal for the season (i.e. poundage, cooking demonstrations, community presentation)

    • Keep Crew motivated to learn new skills by giving them a project or goal to work toward.

    • Grow at least 750 pounds for next year!

    • Find a way for Crew to interact more with the people receiving the food through donations so they can see the impact of their work.

    • Possibly learn cooking skills, get their food handlers permit and have them cook the end of the season meal for our fundraiser.

    • Possibly partner with a commercial kitchen and create a value added product to sell.

  • Modify personal plots

    • We provide each Crew Member with a raised bed to grow food to take home. Here, they get to experiment and practice the skills they’ve learned from the Garden Educator.

    • We want to ensure these plots are fully utilized next season, so we will provide more structure and time to work on them, and will be more strict about neglecting the plots.

General Improvements

  • Find more accessible bathrooms! Does anyone have a connection with Honey Bucket?

  • Create more structure for the Crew Members

By |October 3rd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Season’s End Brunch 2018

On September 9, we hosted a meal to celebrate the completion of our second season improving job skills and addressing local food insecurity through the Youth Empowerment and Employment Program. We hosted a Season’s End Brunch at Boundary Bay Brewery , where guests came to enjoy an all you can eat brunch sponsored by local farms and business, which include Wilcox Farms, Haggen Grocery, Cloud Mountain Farm Center, Boxx Berry Farm, Mount Bakery Cafe, and Woods Coffee. Much of the veggies were grown by the Garden Crew at the We Grow Garden!

We decided to host an informal brunch event this year, because we wanted to host an opportunity for anyone to come celebrate and learn more about Growing Alliances. We noticed at our previous galas that only people who land in a certain income bracket could afford to attend, and we wanted to host a celebration anyone could attend!

In upcoming years, we intend to continue hosting informal celebrations at the end of each season, so keep your eyes and ears open!

Through ticket, auction, swag and raffle sales, we brought in a total of $1,838.36, which will go directly back into the 2019 Youth Empowerment & Employment Program!

We will not be hosting our traditional dinner and auction this fall, but Kind & Co Events will be hosting a Ski Lodge themed Trivia Night for our benefit on December 1st at the Bellingham YWCA. Instead of a full sit-down meal, they will serve hors d’oeuvres and cocktails during trivia, so study-up and bring your friends to play for a cause!

Thank you for your support,

Kali Crow

Thank you to the following donors:

By |September 25th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

The 2018 Growing Alliances Season

The 2018 Growing Alliances Season

We apologize for being absent from this blog since November, 2017 (eek!).

We have been busy growing zucchini, scarlet runner beans, lemon cucumbers and so much more with the help of nine youth Crew Members. For the youth who have worked with us since the beginning, they’ve put over 190 hours into the garden, resulting in the harvest of over 600 pounds of pesticide-free produce. We’ve donated about 75% of the produce we’ve grown to the Bellingham Food Bank, the PAD Emergency Teen Shelter and the Sun House Community. The other 25% has been sold at our market stand and through a special served by Brandywine Kitchen, which in total brought in about $700.

Though the official season is over, we’ve continued to employ one reliable youth Crew Member to care for the garden, continue to harvest, and to help with fundraising and program development.

The 2018 wrapped up on September 13th, in a whirlwind of red, orange, yellow and purple tomatoes, as well as a variety of squash hanging off the vines. In the last few weeks of the program, we tied up loose ends by focusing on the following:

  • Creating and distributing feedback surveys to donation recipients, to discover how we can serve them more effectively next season.

    • What services can we provide to help them better utilize our donations?

  • Request feedback from the Crew on how to increase food production and intellectual challenge for the 2019 season.

  • Conclude our conversation about local food insecurity by brainstorming ideas on how we can use the garden and our skills to better address the issue

  • Put some of the raised beds to sleep and teach a workshop on the benefits and the process of cover cropping over the winter.

Besides growing produce to sell and donate, our Crew Members have been participating in professional development trainings throughout the summer to improve their ability to acquire and maintain a job and to increase their understanding of farm systems. Some of the trainings they’ve had the opportunity to participate in were:

  • Skywood Food Forest Field Trip – what is permaculture and how does it address some concerns of our conventional farm system?

  • Food Insecurity – Define and discuss relevance

  • Composting – what is the benefit of composting and how do we build a productive pile?

  • Interview Preparedness – what should you expect during the interview process? How do you stand out?

  • Business Model Canvas – How do you build a clear and effective entrepreneurial model?

  • Straight Talk – Constructive feedback tool

  • Food Bank Tour – What is currently a primary method of addressing local food insecurity?

  • Food Inc. Video – A brief but comprehensive view of the implications of the current food system.

  • Community to Community Presentation – Discussion on Whatcom County’s farm workers’ rights and abuses

  • Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center Training- Why is conflict valuable? How do you personally approach conflict?

  • Nutrient Cycle

  • Elevator Pitches – How to introduce yourself in an efficient and memorable way

  • Resume Building

We hosted four volunteer work parties this season, during which our awesome volunteers helped us build a beautiful picnic table, several wooden benches for our outdoor classroom, raised beds, a giant fuzzy kiwi trellis, a complete drip irrigation system, and so much more! We host a volunteer work party each month during the season.

We will be hosting a final harvest and cover cropping work party on October 27th from 11-2pm. If you’d like to be added to the volunteer list for this or future volunteer work parties, email volunteer@growingalliances.org or visit our volunteer page to fill out the application.

By |September 18th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Feast for Our Future 2017

non profit dinner and auction

On November 4th, Growing Alliances hosted its first annual Feast for Our Future Benefit at our favorite venue, the Bellingham YWCA. We prefer this venue because we strongly support the mission of the YWCA, which is to “eliminate racism and empower women” and are happy to support their mission through renting their beautiful facility.

The delicious meal served by Calypso Kitchen and local chef, Arlen Coiley, was a fusion of Caribbean and Northwest flavors, with vegetables grown by our youth employees this summer. Beverages included local beer, wine, spirits, and kombucha!

Through ticket sales, the auction, sponsorship and donations, we raised $8,521.50!! This event helped us raise 13.3% of our 2018 needs!

Our live and silent auction items were heavily experience based, because quality time together is what we all cherish during this chilly season. Our two top selling auction items were three tickets to the New Year’s Eve Seahawks Game and a Personal Gourmet Dinner for 6! Two GREAT items!

We would like to give a huge thank you to all of our donors:

By |November 17th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

March Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction

March 2017 Fundraising Dinner and Silent Auction

A total of $4,800 was donated to our program to help employ youth in foster care

On March 29, 2017, Growing Alliances held an evening of food and community to support Bellingham’s fostered youth! We had many community members join us in supporting and learning about how urban agriculture can provide youth, who are transitioning out of foster care, with vocational opportunities to strengthen their work skills while addressing their high levels of stress and PTSD.

For dinner, we’ve had salmon donated by Desire Fish Company, vegetables donated by Broad Leaf Farm, Whole Foods, and the Bellingham Co-Op! And kombucha was generously provided by Kombucha Town!

The meal was created by inspirational chef Arlen Coiley.

We finished off the meal with an exciting dessert auction! There was both donated, homemade, gluten-free, and dairy-free desserts; something for everyone!

 

A big thank you to our fundraiser donors and supporters!

The silent auction items came from the following artists and business:

Community Boating Center

The Nook Collective                                                      Social Fabric

Brandywine Kitchen                                                    Good Earth Pottery

Mallards Ice Cream                                                      Canlis Restaurant in Seattle

The Garden Spot                                                            Vital Climbing Gym

Sandalwood Spa                                                             Pickford Cinema

Beechers Cheese                                                            Back Country Essentials

Presentations included an introduction to Growing Alliances by Executive Director, Kali Crow. Ray Deck III from Skookum Kids, discussed the unique challenges of youth in foster care and why we need to support youth employment when they age out of foster care.

Thanks again for the amazing support! We hope to hold more events in the future to come. We also appreciate any contributions you can make to support the mission of Growing Alliances on our donations page.

For questions, please email Kali Crow at info@growingalliances.org.

By |November 17th, 2017|blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Environmental Enthusiasts: 7 Reasons to Start an Urban Garden

By Kyla Kent

May 29, 2017

In general, cities face a unique set of environmental issues. Many basic ecosystem components and processes are profoundly altered within cities, including climatic conditions, water infiltration, nutrient cycling, resource inputs, and vegetative cover and composition. This may not surprise many considering we live in a concrete jungle where people live on top of each other, cars sit idling in traffic, and waste builds up in a matter of minutes. These are problems we hear about every day, yet are left with limited information on how to solve them. While living expenses in the city continue to rise through the roof, environmentally concerned individuals are taking other actions to conserve their frivolous living habits and waste. Recycling and carpooling have started to become city norms and Air BNB is on the rise to help people find more affordable places to live in the city. While these methods are a start to bettering our environment, there is still more we can do to help our cities! Urban agriculture helps combat some of these environmental city problems, plus more, ultimately serving as a closed-loop solution. Here are 7 reasons why you should start urban gardening to help the environment:

  1. Improved Air Quality

  • Like trees and extensive green roof plants, garden plants filter airborne contaminants such as CO, SOx, NOx
  • Dry deposition and microclimate effects may be higher for rooftop gardens, because of the elevation
  • Further research needed; expected benefit based on estimations from other types of green spaces
  1. Reduced Carbon Emissions

  • Decreased food miles reduce carbon dioxide emissions
  • Majority of fruit and vegetable transport is made by truck, which produces highest emissions
  1. Waste Reduction

  • Food waste is diverted from landfills for compost
  • Decreased food waste from shorter transportation distances (Distribution accounts for about 10% of the loss for fruits and vegetables)
  • Elimination of shelf standard factor (Grocery stores can reject produce that doesn’t fit their shelf appearance standards) and higher acceptance of imperfect looking produce
  1. Reduced Storm Water Run Off

  • Reduced compaction and increased drainage in formerly vacant lots increases infiltration
  • Evapotranspiration, the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces, from community and rooftop garden plants decreases runoff
  • Diversion of runoff to rain barrels and cisterns for irrigation
  1. Combats Urban Heat Islands

  • Like trees and extensive green roof plants, garden plants have cooling effect due to photosynthesis and evapotranspiration
  • Garden plants may have more of a cooling effect than grass or sedums because they have broader leaves and are taller, providing a larger surface area and more shade
  • Deeper soil required for root growth on rooftop gardens provides more insulation
  1. Grows Biodiversity

  • Increased microbial biodiversity and earthworms in soil in formerly vacant lots (community gardens)
  • Increased earthworms and garden insects attract birds; a number of beneficial insect species unique to cities have been identified in community gardens
  • A wide range of insects, including beetles, ants, bugs, flies, bees, spiders and leaf-hoppers are commonly found on green roofs
  • Increased plant variety = higher biodiversity, so rooftop gardens should provide greater number of species than extensive green roofs
  • Green roofs/rooftop gardens provide stopping grounds/nesting for local or migrating birds
  1. Increased Soil Quality

  • Reduced soil compaction
  • Improved pH
  • Increased organic matter
  • Improved nutrient content
  • Increased microbial activity
  • Improved drainage
  • Reduced contamination

Due to the above reasons, we have chosen to provide jobs in urban agriculture so that our environment and cities can benefit from our work!

For more details, studies, and research about the listed benefits above check out http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1044&context=mes_capstones

By |May 29th, 2017|blog|0 Comments

Traveling to the GRuB Institute

By Roger Schuettke

May 16th, 2017

Last week I traveled down to Olympia to visit the awesome and awe-inspiring organization GRuB, attending their 3-day GRuB Institute. The Institute is part of GRuB’s pollination efforts, sharing their organizational model and resources to other organizations using urban agriculture as a tool for youth empowerment. There is no easy way summarize everything that I took in over those few days, but what I can tell you is that it affirmed the process Kali and I are taking to launch our vocational training and employment program. Through GRuB’s employment program and The GRuB School, high school kids grow their own produce to sell through a market stand and CSA, cook for themselves, and take food home to their families. They additionally build gardens for low-income families in the Olympia area.

Arriving at the Institute I was met with people from Ferguson, MI, Anchorage, AK, Sacramento, CA, and Sequim, Maple Falls, Tacoma, Nisqually, Eatonville, Chehalis, and Olympia, WA all coming together to learn about the GRuB model. It is clear that the GRuB program is not about “saving” a specific population. Everyone is treated as an equal there, regardless of their family structure or socioeconomic class. The program is designed to benefit everyone who participates in it both intellectually and emotionally. With that said, Growing Alliances summer will be about staying focused on creating a culture that doesn’t make foster youth feel like they are “less than” the rest of the population. We will be focused on providing the resources our group needs to identify and solve problems–problems within ourselves, problems within our community and problems within our relationship to the food system.

A few of the specific things that we are taking away from the GRuB model have to do with designing this culture that will propel us towards success. The first thing we will do at the beginning of our program is to create a community contract. This contract will be designed by all of us, for all of us, laying out the foundation for how we want to interact with each other within the space. We will use this contract to hold each other accountable throughout the summer. The formation of this contract starts with identifying our own individual goals for the summer, then identifying community goals for the summer, and finally asking ourselves what we need from our peers in order to reach those goals.

Another process we will be taking away that will drive our program is the three tenants: Grow Food, Grow Self and Grow Community. If all of our work is centered around these three tenants then we can affirm that we will support healthy minds, engaged leaders, and be able to solve food justice problems within our community.

I cannot express how stoked I am to get into action this summer, get dirty in the soil and build relationships with our team. I am more confident than ever that we are creating a program that will benefit the youth we work with, our community as a whole, and myself as well.

Thank y’all for reading and for all of your support!

Love,

Roger

     

By |May 16th, 2017|blog, Uncategorized|2 Comments

Building the Brand, Spreading the Mission, Developing our Organization

The Latest on Growing Alliances

By: Kyla Kent
April 28, 2017

Hey, Growing Alliances supporters!

You may have been wondering what we have been up to and our plan for the next few weeks to come. This blog is a little update for you because we want to keep you included in the process as much as we can. Currently, our preparations are all about our first program launch and growing our organization/brand! Here are the details:

The Growing Alliances team is still raising money to reach our goal before June 1st. We are in the process of brainstorming a successful fundraising plan to help us raise at least another $5,000. We would love to hear your thoughts on fundraising ideas. It is always good to know what our community and supporters would want to participate in! In addition, we are continuing to increase our brand’s awareness through spreading our mission. Last Saturday, Roger and I journeyed to the farmer’s market and handed out flyers to local businesses. All the businesses were thrilled to hear about Growing Alliances’ program and were great supporters when learning about our mission. It feels so good to have the positive support from local Bellingham businesses! After the farmer’s market, Roger and I headed over to the March for Science rally, where we witnessed an epic gathering of like-minded individuals. Here, Roger and I passed out the rest of our flyers (125) and continued to inform people about Growing Alliances’ mission.

Our Executive Director, Kali Crow-Liester, is currently focusing on a variety of tasks for Growing Alliances. Recently, she completed the job description and brochure for the youth employment program, which she sent out to local social workers, school counselors, the vocational coordinators at Northwest Youth Services and posted to the Foster Parent Facebook Page. If you have any ideas or know of other good places to post the description, please comment below! Going further, Kali is setting up meetings with these organizations and businesses to personally meet and discuss the program and business strategy and to ask for advice and suggestions. The next step is to apply for a new business license so we can hire youth employees and staff in the summer. Last on Kali’s list is to write grants to fund the fall and winter portions of our program. Send available grants our way and wish us luck!

Roger Schuettke, Growing Alliances’ Human Development Specialist, is continuing to build community connections and buzz around Bellingham. His list consists of reaching out to possible donors, social workers, counselors, and other community partners. Roger’s goal is to generate conversation about our mission, plus learn and swap ideas with more experienced community members who have been involved in the foster care system.
By reaching out, Roger hopes to encourage participation and support for Growing Alliances’ program. Recently, Roger has met with other people who have started nonprofits to understand the challenges they went through and what resources to be looking out for. He reminds readers, “Our goal is not to ‘other’ anyone, we all have been through hard times. However, we can’t ignore the circumstances that many of the kids aging out of the foster care system find themselves in are heavily stacked against their own success. I don’t see what we are doing as a charity. We are starting a movement where Growing Alliances provides resources for people currently or formerly in the foster care system to empower themselves to be the best they can be.” In the next few weeks, Roger is heading to Olympia to participate in the GRuB Institute, to learn what aspects of their successful youth employment program we can recreate in ours.

Growing Alliances is planning on participating in more events before summer to grow our organization’s local awareness. So far, these include: Green Drinks on May 3rd, the Bellingham Arts and Music Festival on May 6th, and networking with any other community members, organizations, and institutions that pop up! We are also discussing the possibility of attending the farmer’s market every other Saturday. If you have any more ideas or events that would be good for Growing Alliances to participate in, let us know in the comment box below!

Growing Alliances is always trying to make more contacts in the Foster System community, so reach out if you’re interested in working together! Furthermore, we are always reaching out to build partnerships with businesses, organizations, and individuals.

Contact Kali Crow-Liester at kcrowliester@growingalliances.org

By |April 28th, 2017|blog, Uncategorized|0 Comments

The Benefits of Urban Agriculture on Psychological Health

By Kyla Kent

Updated: Saturday, April 15, 2017

Most likely, you are a gardener yourself and already know the benefits of gardening. How relaxing it feels when you dig your hands into the cool soil. When the leaves sprout up and you think to yourself, “I did it! Wow, I created this beautiful, green plant.” You already know how much you enjoy picking the yellow squash, zucchini, and the thousand of green beans to prepare an epic dinner for your family. But if you are not a gardener, then I’ve got you interested. Because there is something amazing about growing your own food (try it!).

By employing foster youth in urban agriculture, Growing Alliances connects the dots; the demand for increased urban agriculture and the need to provide more tools for Youth who have been involved in foster care, so they may achieve their goals. That is why urban agriculture and the benefits it bestows is so important to our program. So if you are not a gardener, then I am writing to you. To inform you of the amazing benefits that urban agriculture can have on an individual and the community.

Have you ever heard that surrounding yourself with green plants can have positive effects on your health? If you haven’t, you should probably go to the store and buy a green shrub to include in your office space because it’s true! One study found that workers with workstation views which included green elements were more satisfied at work and had more patience, less frustration, increased enthusiasm for work, and fewer health problems.¹ Many studies since have concluded that including plants in daily life routines have significant effects on psychological health and human well-being. This includes improved mental, physical, and emotional health—and an increased quality of life. Whether adult or youth, urban agriculture consistently shows positive results on increasing psychological health.

Improves Mental Health
Working with plants and in the outdoors, benefits the mental health, mental outlook, and personal wellness of individuals. The cultivation of plants triggers both illness prevention and healing responses.5 Health professionals use plants and gardening materials to help patients of diverse ages with mental illness improve social skills, self-esteem, and use of leisure time.5 The field of horticulture therapy promotes plant-human relationships to induce relaxation, and reduce stress, fear and anger, blood pressure, and muscle tension.5 Significant research shows that natural scenes evoke positive emotions, facilitate cognitive functioning, and promote recovery from mental fatigue for people who are in good mental health.4

Improves Physical Health
As my yoga instructor likes to say, “The mind and body are one”; a part of psychological health is satisfied through maintaining physical health. Urban agriculture can dissipate little or intensive amounts of energy. Gardeners report that garden activity increases self-esteem, pride, confidence, personal satisfaction, and efficacy.² Even moderate forms of garden exercise can increase muscle strength and endurance in activity-reduced individuals.² From a research study in 2003, researchers Kien and Chiodo found gardening and nature adventure education in after-school programs increased energy expenditures of 12-year-olds by 60%.4

Improves Emotional Health
Gardening is a lifetime activity affiliated with satisfying labor, physical and mental relaxations, socializing and a means to produce food. For that reason, urban agriculture can be a key element in successful health intervention programs because it addresses simultaneously the physical, mental, spiritual, and social health of individuals and their communities.²Social engagement is positively correlated with personal attention to health care and wellness.5 Food production through urban agriculture teaches job skills and offers entrepreneurial opportunities. Inventive prison garden programs seek to improve personal health and mental outlook through pride in nurturing the life of a garden.5

Stress Relief
More than 100 studies have shown that relaxation and stress reduction are significant benefits associated with spending time in green areas.² Research is also finding that opportunities to connect with nature as a child are important for the promotion of wellness for future adults. For example, Mayer and Frantz (2005) considered that opportunities to connect with nature in childhood promote the value of green spaces for refuge from stress and anxiety.¹

Urban Agriculture and Youth
Extensive evidence shows that school-based garden programs have significant health effects on young people. School garden programs teach a skill and a lifetime hobby that provides exercise, mental stimulation, and social interactions.4 Many youth programs included nutrition education elements, as well as, job training and youth leadership opportunities, where several researchers found these programs were successful in achieving their goals.3 GRuB, a similar school-based program in Olympia, is one example of a successful organization that works with the local youth through urban agriculture. One of their many accomplishments includes organizing the Kitchen Garden Project which has built over 2,200 free gardens for low-income families since 1993. With parallel ideas in mind, Growing Alliances strives to bring Bellingham’s community a related mission: to help youth in foster care connect with future vocational opportunities through urban agriculture.

In addition to dedicated urban agriculture programs, contact with nature helps children to develop cognitive, emotional, and behavioral connections to their nearby social and biophysical environments.¹ Nature experiences are important for encouraging imagination and creativity, cognitive and intellectual development, and social relationships all of which improve the child’s mental health and function.² Nature can provide both background and objects for play and learning.Among older children, exposure to nature encourages exploration and building activities, which can improve problem-solving abilities, ability to respond to changing contexts, as well as participation in group decision-making.² Exploration in the outdoors, gardens, backyards, parks, wilderness and many such environments encourage curiosity, engagement, focused learning, mindfulness and reflective practice.¹

Urban agriculture encourages social contact by serving as informal meeting places and sites for groups and shared activities.² These gardens can serve as a sort of eco-therapy, as marginalized people can find empowerment, respite from stresses, and personal involvement in environmental management.² Urban agriculture in close proximity to homes encourage exercise, which can improve mental health.² As described earlier, studies indicate that having views of nearby nature and living within green spaces can improve worker productivity, reduce stress, and improve school performance. Usable urban gardens or green spaces not only foster a sense of community but also provide psychological benefits among its members.

This summer, Growing Alliances will be starting its first foster youth program! The youth will spend a portion of their time at our ‘practice plot’ that has been generously provided by the Chuckanut Center, a community-centered urban garden that provides garden plots for group projects. Here, staff and youth employees will practice gardening techniques by growing food for our own consumption and distribution into the community. Each week, we will allocate a few hours to each of our partner community gardens, to help them flourish. During the off-season, youth will have the opportunity to continue employment through winter to event plan and budget for the coming season. Growing Alliances will host regular networking events throughout the year, to which we will invite Bellingham employers to meet our stellar youth employees. We will not be successful in our mission if our youth employees graduate from our program without being registered for further education or employment.

References
1. The_Role_of_Nature-Based_Experiences_in_the_Develo.pdf
2. https://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/Thm_Mental.html
3. http://asi.ucdavis.edu/programs/sarep/publications/food-and-society/ualitreview-2013.pdf
4. http://community-wealth.org/sites/clone.community-wealth.org/files/downloads/paper-bellows-brown-smit.pdf
5. http://alivebynature.com/health-benefits-urban-agriculture/

4 Reasons Students Should Garden

December 6th, 2018|0 Comments

Getting youth to spend time outside of their home is difficult. Being consumed by media in this century locks many of the kiddos that we want to see at the garden spending time flourishing into […]

Season’s End Brunch 2018

September 25th, 2018|0 Comments

The 2018 Growing Alliances Season

September 18th, 2018|0 Comments

By |April 15th, 2017|agriculture, blog|3 Comments