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

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 kcrowliester@growingalliances.org

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


One of the many benefits of working with Growing Alliances is witnessing the ease with which we build a supportive network around us. This experience makes me optimistic about the compassion of our community and the strength of our interpersonal relationships. We have so much support from students, the Bellingham gardening community and as we discovered recently, support from other local nonprofits that pair urban agriculture with youth employment programs.

On January 27, I took the trek from Bellingham to Olympia, Washington, just as the sun was rising, to attend the NW Youth and Garden Conference. The event took place at GRUB Farm, an inspiring program that partners with the public schools to provide alternative science programs and summer job opportunities. During the seven hour conference, we shared stories, advice, ate delicious food, and most importantly, discussed how we could work together to improve our services.

At one point during the conference we split into small groups to discuss more specific concerns of ours, which for me are the inclusion of all identities in our organization and the successful transfer of youth into higher employment or education after our program. It is always a concern when working with any group of people that someone will feel isolated, uncomfortable or unsafe, and it is a priority of Growing Alliances to host a respectful and safe space to learn and earn an income.

We then discussed methods used by past employees to successfully find further employment after they turned 18 and aged out of these programs. Growing Alliances plans on employing youth for at least a year after they age out of foster care so that they have dependable income during this time. This does not however, lessen the necessity of graduating our youth into more work or education. Some of the techniques we discussed included supervised mentorships in local businesses while still employed by Growing Alliances or providing continuous professional support during their new job. We also discussed the best ways to promote hardworking youth into roles with more responsibility so that they are successful, build more skills and confidence, while helping Growing Alliances to flourish.

One idea on how to collaborate was to develop group career service workshops, in which all youth from programs in western Washington would join together and build relationships while learning skills about interviewing, resume building, etc. We figure – why do it independently if it would be cheaper, easier and socially beneficially for the youth to do it together?

Collaboration is a beautiful thing, which left me feeling supported and inspired at the end of the day. We at Growing Alliances look forward to continuing the support and collaboration between organizations, so that we can provide the best programs possible for our youth.

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As always, we love to receive comments, ideas and critiques, so comment below or send us an email!

We are here to LEARN together

to GROW together

to THRIVE together.

Keep an eye out for announcements about our delicious fundraiser at the end of March!

By |February 12th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Inspiration from Northwest Youth Services

In March of 2016 I became the Lead Garden Educator for the WeGrow Garden at Northwest Youth Services, through their vocational training program. Northwest Youth Services (NWYS) is another Bellingham, Washington-based nonprofit that provides resources to homeless and previously homeless youth, in order to assist them on their way towards housing and financial stability. NWYS staff encouraged Growing Alliances to pursue our mission, despite the overlap, because Bellingham needs more resources for disadvantaged youth.

The WeGrow Program employs at most 5 youth in a minimum of a 3-month vocational training program to teach farm skills, botany, biology, teamwork with their peers and volunteers, accounting skills, and other vital job skills. For the three months before starting our market stand, we delegated about 30 minutes of each 4-hour workday for lessons in biology so that the youth would better understand the processes happening in the garden.

Up until this growing season (2017), WeGrow had a .25-acre farm next to the NWYS office on State St, where we produced hundreds of pounds of produce and popped up a market stand during the summer months. Despite the scarce income we made through the market stand, it gave the youth the opportunity to work on customer service, accounting, and personal and product presentation. We also surveyed local businesses for which would be interested in a weekly produce box, during which we continued a relationship with the delicious Leaf & Ladle. What wasn’t sold was donated to the food bank. For the 2017 season, WeGrow will be breaking ground on a new site, across from the Bellingham Food Bank.

I learned a lot during those 7 months about effective garden education and how to modify my lesson delivery to best communicate with each youth. I plan on using much of what I learned to create a happy, healthy, and educational work environment for the youth of Growing Alliances. The best part of my job was seeing the youth be excited and proud of their work, and to watch the progression of their work and garden skills. These youth are incredible and I am honored to know each one of them.

Five out of the six youth we employed over the season moved on from WeGrow to more full-time employment – one of the program’s major goals. Similar to WeGrow, Growing Alliances will have the goal of providing the youth we work with the skills and connections needed to give them more long-term employment.

This experience demonstrated how much need there is for vocational training programs for youth with unusually high obstacles to employment. Less than half (48%) of youth who have recently transitioned out of foster care are employed whatsoever and those who are make less than $10,000 a year on average. Reliable income is a basic need for everyone and it is a goal of Growing Alliances, Northwest Youth Services and many other amazing nonprofits and individuals to give a hand to those who need one.

One of the main goals this winter of Growing Alliances is the development of several program plans so that we may survey our targeted population on which would be most appealing. It is possible that Growing Alliances will start another urban farm in Bellingham, based on demand, but we have several other ideas that are more popular amongst our Board Members. We shall see where our surveys bring us; stay tuned for updates in the coming months!

For more information about Northwest Youth Services and their programs, please check out their website: https://www.nwys.org/vocational-opportunities/

Many thanks,

Kali Crow-Liester

By |January 14th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments