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

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

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!




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

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.

1. The_Role_of_Nature-Based_Experiences_in_the_Develo.pdf

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

A Change in Leadership!

A Change in Leadership

Growing Alliances has switched leadership! In November, Heather Tiszai handed her role as Executive Director over to Kali Crow-Liester, a soon-to-be Western graduate with a big vision for the organization. We are currently in the process of revamping our mission and programs, though we plan on continuing with the Cargo Club to deliver produce by bike around Bellingham.

Kali and the new Board of Directors wish to transfer the focus of Growing Alliances from sustainable agriculture in the Bahamas and onto vulnerable populations in Whatcom County. We are specifically interested in working with youth in foster care who are soon to turn 18 and ‘age-out’ of foster care, meaning that they will no longer qualify for any type of support. Our current thought is to create jobs in urban agriculture for this population, in order to make this transition less of a financial challenge.

Over the winter months we will be surveying this potential clientele to assess whether they truly need job assistance and if so, what job programs would be most interesting to them. We will also spend significant time connecting with the community to gain support and foster partnerships to best serve our clientele. Some organizations we are interested in partnering with are Northwest Youth Services, Skookum House, the Restorative Action Coalition, the WSU Whatcom Extension, and others.

One other very important focus of this winter is finding seed money to pay for our start-up costs, such as state fees, marketing materials, and soon our very first employee! The majority of our money will be sought out through grants that Kali will write this winter, which will pay for a bike, its accessories, a stipend for Kali and for our first youth employee! If anyone believes in our new mission and has any ideas of how to get funding, please let us know! If that includes an interest in donating, please feel free to donate anything you can during this holiday season!

Thank you all so much and I look forward to working in this amazing and supportive Bellingham community!


Kali Crow-Liester

By |December 12th, 2016|blog|0 Comments