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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|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!

Love,

Roger

     

By |May 16th, 2017|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|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Oh So Much Love for Our Supportive Community!

I am honored by the amount of support we’ve had from the Bellingham and Seattle community for our upcoming fundraiser and silent auction. I am astonished by how easily people gave and I want to give a shout out to all of our supporters:

I would first like to thank our event sponsor, WECU, for relieving the financial stress of hosting a fundraiser!

Secondly, thanks to Robert Lanphear that we have our great event poster!

Food Donations:

Desire Fish Company – Enough Pink Salmon to feed all sixty of our guests

Bellingham Community Co-Op – For a gift certificate to purchase ingredients

 

The Lakeway Whole Foods – A gift certificate to purchase ingredients

Meg’s Veg Box – Onions!

Kombucha Town – A keg of kombucha

Aslan Brewery – Who would have donated a keg to the event if we had gotten the right permit, but who instead donated a gift certificate for our auction!

Kulshan Brewery – Who also would have donated a keg to the event if we had gotten the right permit, but who instead donated a gift certificate for our auction!

Grocery Outlet – Wine donations for our ring toss prizes!

Pure Bliss Desserts – A delicious naturally gluten-free Belgian chocolate cake

Silent Auction:

Flow Motion Tours – A three hour mountain mike tour for up to three people through Bellingham trails!

Aexis & Alexis Maurer – A three night stay for up to five guests in Coco, Costa Rica in a beautiful condo only a five minute walk from the beach! The condo is nestled in a safe, small and private community and has a great pool, with a panoramic view of the sea!

For more info, visit: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/2857023

Caleah Dean – This beautiful upcycled necklace is handcrafted in Seattle from re-purposed freshwater pearls, taurine, aquamarine, polished black spinel, Swarovski crystal, and with a sterling silver chain.

Adrienne Beattie – A 2 hour Structural Medicine message therapy session with Intern Structural Medicine Specialist, Adrienne Renee. The Institute of Structural Medicine is considered the most advanced and comprehensive of structural integration training programs available. It is the perfect balance of holistic and traditional western approaches to physical therapy. It assesses and treats each person’s unique patterns in function and structure with the use of visual and movement education in standing posture and with record of Myo-Fascial Length Testing (MFLT) results (which test the range of motion for any given muscle). Expect to learn a lot about your body, movement and posture in this session!

Abby Kuchar – This local artist (and a Growing Alliances board member) has donated a gislee print of one of her striking oil paintings of the WWU Outback Farm.

The Global Merchant – Donated handmade pieces from both the City of Accra, in the Volta Region of Ghana and from Solo, Indonesia. We are happy to include a large hand crafted drum:

A smaller drum decorated with carvings:

A hand carved dragon moncala game:

Two Ghanaian hand carved masked:

Two beautiful wooden statues:

An stylish and functional deck furniture set (has been stained since this photo was taken)(p.s. cat is not included):

Good Earth Pottery – Handmade bowl donated by Ann Marie Cooper

Sojourn Jewelry and Clothing – A red purse, sterling silver earrings, and daisy scarf

Beecher’s Cheese – Colossal Cut of Handmade Cheese

Social Fabric – Vegan and cruelty free purse made in Canada

Olivia Raster Art

Zach Thompson Art

Downtown Emporium –  Cloth bag, change purse, flower scarf, hair pins, seed pod prayer beads

Nook Collective – These inspired Bellingham craftsmen are donating hand made re-purposed cutting boards and a children’s desk! I’m so excited for you all to see their pieces!

Hohl Feed and Seed – They have donated lots and lots of seeds!

Mod Socks – Contributed some hilarious garden themed socks!

Third Planet – Candles and moon night lights

The Garden Spot – 2 Growoya Waterers

WSU Master Gardener Program – A master gardener’s course

Exact Science Lab – Soil Test

Sandra Fischer – The Authentic Gardener: Naturalistic and Contemporary Landscape Design

Jade Flores – Handmade dress

Christian Liester – Noonday Jewelry

Gift Certificates:

Brandywine Kitchen

Mallard’s Ice Cream

Canlis – We received a $300 gift certificate!!

EAT Restaurant & Bar

Backcountry Essentials – 1 Ski Tune

Arne Hana – 25 two for one coupons

Community Boat Center – 4 hours of human powered boating

Vital Climbing Gym – 5 day climbing pass

 Sandalwood Spa – Eyelash Extension

Pickford Film Cinema – 1 year membership, two free entrance coupons, one free popcorn

There will be very few tickets at the door so please purchase online at growingalliances.org/events

By |March 26th, 2017|Uncategorized|0 Comments

LEARN, GROW, THRIVE

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.

Displaying Group Photo.jpg

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

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!

Cheers!

Kali Crow-Liester

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