Growing To Give: Freeing People From Hunger
Imagine A World where the most resourceful and productive community farms and gardens thrive, nourishing communities with fresh and sustainable produce. Now, imagine those farm and gardens being gifted to communities who are passionate about sustaining them for years to come. That’s what we’re all about at Growing to Give ® – creating a movement of generosity and empowerment through innovation in agriculture.
Agriculture is not just a means of survival for people in need in these communities but also a source of pride and purpose. It’s a way for people to connect with the land and with each other, a way to grow to give, learn new skills, and to contribute to the common good. By promoting sustainable farm and garden practices, Growing To Give intends to free millions from hunger.
Siobhan (Chevon) Shaw is the driving force behind the establishment of Growing to Give, where she serves as the Co-Founder and Chair. GrowingtoGive.org is a global organization comprising experts, innovators, and supporters in climate-resilient agriculture, dedicated to introducing low tech solutions for ensuring food security.
Siobhan holds unparalleled expertise in Crop Circle farming, a unique and sustainable agricultural system, making her the sole female authority on this subject worldwide. She champions the cause of empowering women in farming, striving to increase their representation in local communities. Her conviction lies in the belief that by providing women with the knowledge of growing food, they can nourish not just their families but their entire communities.
Growing to Give implements food growing systems that optimize resource utilization and foster high-yield farming within the community. These systems are specifically designed to significantly minimize water, space, and fertilizer requirements, surpassing the efficiency of traditional farming methods. Siobhan collaborates with a dedicated team of over 60 professional volunteers spanning diverse fields such as agriculture, marketing, project management, legal services, sustainability, and fundraising. Together, they forge partnerships with key agencies and community-driven corporations to donate, install, and train resource-challenged regions in adopting these sustainable farming practices.
The collective efforts of Growing to Give yield far-reaching benefits, not only in terms of earth-friendly and community-centered farms but also in building more resilient, happier, and healthier communities overall.
For More information go to https://growingtogive.org
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The Interview Transcript
0:01 – Hugh Ballou Welcome to The Nonprofit Exchange. This is Hugh blue. Founder and president of center vision leadership foundation. I founded a community to support nonprofit leaders everywhere, and in the process of networking and meeting people, I meet the fascinating people who are doing work in the trenches and Siobhan Shaw is my guest today. Just met her. But I was so impressed with her spirit and what she’s done in such a limited time with limited resources. I said, why don’t you come on the nonprofit exchange and talk about your journey, talk about leadership, talk about your project.
0:38 – Hugh Ballou And we just sort of have a tag today,
0:41 – Hugh Ballou Growing to give as a nonprofit, freeing people from hunger. So Siobhan, tell people a little bit about who you are and why you started this nonprofit.
0:52 – Suibhan Shaw Well, thank you, Hugh, for inviting me to join you today on your show. I’ve just learned about SynerVision. I’m excited about what you do for leaders of nonprofits, and I’m looking forward to working alongside with your group. I am the co founder and the catalyst behind the growing to give organization we’re uh five oh one c three based in the United States and we also have. A chapter, a registered chapter in South Africa. And we’re not your garden variety organization or team.
1:30 – Suibhan Shaw We’re an all-volunteer team from around the world. And think of us like the fairy godmothers of farming. So we’re providing to small-scale farmers, to community gardens and community farms across the country and around the world, we’re going to provide sustainable farming and gardening systems that help people that are living in climate vulnerable and low income areas. And in that, we are on this quest to free people from hunger. Because we feel that nobody should go to bed hungry and we need to work together to remove that grip of hunger that people.
2:18 – Suibhan Shaw Find is threatening their livelihoods, threatening their families. And so we do this by collaborating with community farms and gardens, small scale farmers to help them fortify their systems that they’re using. And we take. Ordinary spaces and turn them into high yield. High production or low resource use. Spaces. In their farm or garden. So we can take even a tiny porch, you know, a farm field and turn it into a huge production, healthy, healthy plants growing big. And we actually have several different systems that we use.
3:09 – Suibhan Shaw And what we’re known for is the spirals that we grow in. So it’s an exciting adventure that we’re on.
3:16 – Hugh Ballou Well, you picked my interest as a home gardener. Is this just for farmers or is it also for communities or small scale like people that want to do their own?
3:26 – Suibhan Shaw We actually are developing what we call a food ambassador program, and that would be for residential homeowners or apartment dwellers, people like that, that have don’t have a lot of space to grow food. But they know that by growing food, they, you know, make their families more resilient and their neighborhoods more resilient to shocks that we’ve all felt recently with the pandemic, when there was no food on the shelves. Friends of ours who were in the Caribbean, the ships stopped coming.
4:00 – Suibhan Shaw You know, you know, food insecurity became top of mind for a lot of people. And I think that that’s been a wake-up call for a lot of people and groups like ours. And ours is unique because we do have special permission to use these innovative, cutting edge, low tech easy to use systems. They’re called Crop Circle Farms, Crop Circle Gardens, the Tomato Volcano, and Root Tubes are all things that help you grow more food in less space. So we have a program coming out, it’s called the Food Ambassador Program, and it’ll be for residences of communities that want to get involved.
4:49 – Suibhan Shaw You can you know, buy it for yourself as a, you know, a donation through Growing2Give, or you can buy it for somebody else in your community. And, you know, somebody who really wants to grow food, but they don’t have the resources to be able to do that.
5:05 – Hugh Ballou Well, there’s food security, there’s food supply chain, and there’s wasted energy. So I’ve looked in the grocery store, and here’s lettuce coming from California or Arizona. And I’m in Virginia. That’s a long ride. And I could grow and I just shared with you, I have a little hydroponic garden I grow in the winter and downstairs. And in the summer, I have some greens I grow outside. Well, I know the history of it. I didn’t put bad stuff on it. And, you know, it’s just growing in God’s earth.
5:34 – Hugh Ballou And I’m not paying for a boat ride or a train ride or a truck to get it to me. And so there’s a lot of practical reasons. And you said, talked about your economy of resources. What about water? And people have shortage of water. Does your garden take a lot of water?
5:50 – Suibhan Shaw No, I shouldn’t shake my head like this when you ask me that question. It all started because of water scarcity. So my husband, John Kendall, is the inventor of the crop circle farm and garden systems and the tomato volcano. And he went on a a quest. He had, he was a cancer survivor. He had gone through that white light experience. He was placed back into the flow of life and he needed to find out what it was he was here for. So he did a number of trips to different places and in doing so he found what he was here for.
6:33 – Suibhan Shaw And he saw that there was a lot of drought in different areas of the world. He was in Australia. The farmers were committing suicide there because the rain belt had shifted. It had gone from, you know, the breadbasket of Australia north, you know, to the mountains or somewhere. You know, these generational farms. You didn’t have irrigation like they would in the Western states. Imagine you in Virginia not having any water falling from the sky for months, right? It’s not easy to it.
7:11 – Suibhan Shaw It’s a huge financial burden to put in irrigation. So he saw that and he was like, wow, this is crazy. And then he’s in the Caribbean and he sees tankers of water coming in. And he thought they were oil tankers, and he found out, no, they’re bringing water in from the mainland, the United States, or from draining aquifers on the Outer Lying Islands. So the Caribbean has a very limited amount of fresh water on the islands, right? This was the Bahamas. So they were bringing in tankers of water to support the tourist trade, and then the locals had to use catchment systems.
7:56 – Suibhan Shaw To get their water for growing food and so on and so forth. So he came back and he just started tinkering. He has a grandfather who was an inventor, and so I think it just was in his blood. And he has spent a decade coming up with ways of growing more food in less space using less water. So, using less water is the main central theme of everything that Growing to Give does, as well as what John’s company, New Leaf Technologies, does. So we decided, he said, I could retail this. But that’s not going to help the most vulnerable people in the world.
8:44 – Suibhan Shaw So I want to give it away. And of course, I thought, how romantic. But our last name is not Gates. I’m not Melinda, you’re not Bill. How are we going to do that? And the idea came to develop a nonprofit. And it’s a unique nonprofit because it has these systems that are available to us that aren’t available to anybody else or any other nonprofit. So what we’re able to do is really build on that and take our expertise and teach that to people within our organization around the world. We have, as I said earlier, we have an all-volunteer team.
9:28 – Suibhan Shaw So we have some agricultural experts that have joined our team and they will be learning as we do projects in the United States, in the Caribbean, and in Africa. They will be learning how these systems are installed. They will be able to empower people there in these communities to grow their own food. And I think that that, for me, is one of the biggest things. It’s for especially women. These are easy systems. I love them. I love working with them because a lot of that hard work is taken out of it, you know, the weeding and all that extra labor of what that goes into farming.
10:17 – Suibhan Shaw So, you know, We, we provide these systems to the small scale farmers and to these community farms and gardens for free. We provide we provide training in the sustainable systems as well as sustainable living and nutrition to these groups. And how we do that is we write. Co, right grants with them, or we fundraise. All kinds of different ways. And we just started doing all that. We’ve been around about four years, but the pandemic hit right after we got our registration. So we ended up just staying where we were in this community in British Columbia, and we grew a hundred thousand pounds of food for the community over a three year period.
11:11 – Suibhan Shaw And now, the catalyst, myself, I had to figure something out very quickly. What are we going to do now? Because the pandemic’s over. So I ended up looking for volunteers to help me build the organization. And in January, I was able to find a large number of professionals from from operations managers and marketing experts to a whole legal team. And they’re all volunteers. And we’re step by step, little baby steps, building this global organization. And they’ve all caught the vision of freeing people from hunger.
11:53 – Suibhan Shaw And it’s probably the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time, is just being there to be the glue. Uh, with this amazing team and, and, uh, yeah. Sort of like, you know, teaching, you know, like Cinderella taking control of her own destiny. We’re going to help farmers and women in farming take control of their own destiny. And it’s an exciting time for us.
12:20 – Hugh Ballou That’s amazing. That’s amazing. So that’s a, that’s a fascinating journey. So you didn’t start this cause you were an expert on organizational development or leadership, right?
12:29 – Suibhan Shaw No, but I’ve probably been in leadership since I was the junior, you know, high school, you know, class president. So I’ve always been either a leader or, you know, somebody who supports the leader. Yeah, I, I have a different style of leadership than the most say corporate, corporate, corporately trained leaders, because I’ve been in the film and television industry. I’ve been in sales, um, you know, all kinds of different things. And now I’m in farming, but they all require leadership,
13:14 – Hugh Ballou You know, But talk more about that because we have a whole bunch of – there’ll be a lot of people listening to this. And some people have an idea and they’re ready to launch. Some people have launched and they’re not quite making it. And so you talk about getting all these people to support you. So what about your leadership has attracted people? I asked somebody who did a major accomplishment in one of my meetings and I said, well, how did you get them to do that? And he said, I asked them.
13:43 – Hugh Ballou So there’s a point of contact that we have to do something, but what about your leadership helps people know what to do and inspires their passion? And then how do you get the people around you? That’s kind of a multiple question, but it’s all about,
13:58 – Hugh Ballou You know, leaders have people that follow and you obviously have people following and participating. So what’s unique about you? Have you done some things that didn’t work you want to share or what did work?
14:09 – Suibhan Shaw Well, I’ll tell you what worked. Focus in on growing to give and the idea that I had to take it to the next level, which is you had to build the organization around it. We’d already grown food. You can go to our socials and see years and years and years of, you know, thousands and hundreds of, you know, tomatoes and peppers and all that kind of stuff coming off the farm that are going to food banks. So we know how to grow food and we know how to feed the community. And we actually know how to build a community of volunteers that help you plant and harvest.
14:51 – Suibhan Shaw And it’s an amazing thing to be a part of As I said, I’ve probably been involved in some sort of leadership, my entire adult life, and what I never have been good at is being I’ve never been good at being led, right? But you learn to be a good leader by being a bad follower. And I think that that has a new interesting perspective on leadership and leadership development. So, you know, I might be a reluctant or challenging follower, but I’ve been able to gain, you know, I suppose some valuable insights into effective leadership.
15:43 – Suibhan Shaw And so what I bring to the table is authenticity. I am who I am. What you see is what you get. And I remember when I went through one of these tests, you know, that one of my bosses gave me a psychological test. And it was, you know, there was a big wheel, and you were supposed to, you had your natural characteristic, your characteristics for leadership, and your, your put on ones, the ones that you show the world, right. And I only fit into one category. And it was like, what you see is what you get.
16:24 – Suibhan Shaw You know, it’s just, I didn’t have another category. And some people might think that, you know, that makes me weak or something like that, but I don’t believe so. And I think that I’ve developed these strategies of empathy and inclusiveness. And and that’s what I did when I started looking for volunteers to help me build growing to give the idea for me was. I wanted to be the catalyst, but I wanted to then be able to step away and do what I do best, which is building relationships and being out in community and growing food with people and teaching them how to grow food, teaching them what I know.
17:17 – Suibhan Shaw And just having a good chinwag in the field, right? So I grew up on a farm, so that’s where I love to be, is outside, and I’m so grateful that I have the opportunity now to be able to do that in my life. And so when I thought I need people that know what they’re doing, that are effective leaders, and that we can develop a non-hierarchical leadership or team that can really take growing to give to the moon and really make a global impact. So I went to LinkedIn. And you know, they have a little briefcase icon on LinkedIn, that’s for jobs.
18:05 – Suibhan Shaw So I thought, Well, I don’t have any money to pay anybody, but I wonder if other nonprofits look for volunteers through LinkedIn. Turns out they do. And so I wrote a, you know, I had to figure that out. How do you write a job request or or a job la? What is it a a job ad for volunteers, but I did it and I thought, Well, I guess grant writing is where I should start. I should find some experts in grant writing and then we’ll get a lot of grants and everything will be hunky-dory. We’ll have all kinds of money and everything will be good.
18:47 – Suibhan Shaw Well, I found grant writers. I found a marketing team. I found an operations team. I found corporate sponsorship team. I found a team of lawyers, Fortune 500 lawyers, and they all volunteer their time.
19:06 – Hugh Ballou You know, you just answer the question so many people say, well, I don’t know where to find volunteers. You just open up a magic window that people. Oh, my goodness.
19:15 – Suibhan Shaw That’s magic. I’m happy. I’ve actually, I’m actually showing people what I did. You know, if they contact me on LinkedIn, I think it’s the link is in the chat. I’m happy to tell you what I did. I could. It was a fairly simple process and I’ve noticed some of the people that I’ve helped are finding volunteers through LinkedIn. So I’m really happy to be able to do that for people.
19:41 – Hugh Ballou That is sharing the wealth. It’s a struggle. People struggle for board members or advisors or experts on their board or experts not on their board. Because you want to be careful with who you put on your board. They have to be really aligned with you and your vision. But that is, folks, that was worth tuning in today. That was the big deal right there. And it’s what everybody struggles with.
20:06 – Suibhan Shaw And
20:08 – Hugh Ballou That’s so you are indeed creative and I have 3, 3 short bullet points. People say, what is a leader size? It is 3 things. Leaders get things done. And you figure out how things get done, and you influence people. So we’re not the boss. We don’t tell you what to do. We say, here’s where we’re going, but you’ve put people around you. And I like to say, if you’re the best person on your team, you need a new team.
20:37 – Suibhan Shaw That’s right. I am certainly not the best person on our team. And I’m really excited about our team because one of my leadership styles is encouraging people to take initiative, to show me why they want to be part of the team, to bring me ideas, to sort of build the ideas even before you bring them to me. Talk amongst yourself. I love the open dialogue and the innovation that a team that it is really, I’m not their leader. I’m just the catalyst that gets them charged up to stay with our mission of freeing people from hunger.
21:33 – Suibhan Shaw And I think that if I can encourage them to question They can question me, they can question each other. That’s where being a bad follower. So most people that have followers want you to follow them without question. Right don’t challenge the leader. Don’t don’t ask any questions that are difficult. I relish that and some questions I can’t answer. I just don’t have the answer for them. I have a lot of answers and I’ve been able to impart that information and now over. We started this whole team building in January of this year, 2023.
22:19 – Suibhan Shaw And so it’s been 11, 10 months now. And a lot of people took the summer off. Just not much happens in the summer and we’re all volunteers. You know, it’s not like we’re being paid for 40 hours a week to do any work, so it’s all being done that way. And I think that what happens is if we follow the leader and we’re in this sort of blind compliance state, we’re just yes-men to the leader. And you never learn anything beyond what the idea that the leader has. So I’m a nonconformist. I always have been.
23:04 – Suibhan Shaw I’ve been the black sheep of the family. I’ve been the rebel. You know, my mother was a farmer and I’m sure when I was a teenager, she wanted to tear her hair out, you know, trying to keep me at home, keep me from getting into trouble. So, but I think that that has allowed me to be a more effective leader because I let people be the rebel. You know, I encourage you to be the rebel, come, come make this team, make this organization the best it can be, bring your ideas to the table. And everybody gets a chance to decide whether or not they’re great ideas, are we going to move with them?
23:46 – Suibhan Shaw I mean, we’re just figuring that out right now for a fundraiser. I said, Oh, you know, I found this place that can make t shirts, you know, and they’ve given us our nonprofit status. And then my marketing Director, she said, oh, that’s exciting. However, I don’t know if we should have more than 1 merchandise. Provider. At a time, you know, for campaign, if you’re just going to do T shirts, are you going to do things like what you see behind me, which are going to hopefully be available for our holiday giving campaign.
24:27 – Suibhan Shaw And so, you know, we take pictures of things that happen on the farm, like this is a bee, a resinia flower on the farm, and I took a picture, and then I turned it into, using a digital editing program, I turned it into art.
24:43 – Hugh Ballou I love it. So, I would disagree with you. You are a perfect team member because you’re not a follower. You are a person who speaks their mind. Everybody needs a Shaban on their team that’s not a – I wouldn’t say you’re a yes man. You’re not a yes person and what you’ve described is what we model as transformational leadership, is you’re responsible for the vision. You’re responsible the vision gets implemented and you inspire people to raise the bar on their own performance because they got a piece to play.
25:17 – Hugh Ballou So we’re going to, I’m going to show you a website, talk about the community and come back for a closing. You’ve told us a lot of stuff. There’s certainly a lot more. So your website is growingtogive.org. Growing to give dot or growing do or when people go there, what will they find?
25:38 – Suibhan Shaw They’ll find a lot of great pictures of work that we’ve done on projects. In British Columbia was our biggest project to date because we were there for three full years. We grew 100,000 pounds of food. We grew in spirals. We grew in tomato volcanoes. We grew in crop circle gardens. And you’ll see videos. And this, what you’re showing right now, is a tomato volcano. This was a prototype in John’s mother’s backyard. And she was at a point in her life where she didn’t want to bend over.
26:17 – Suibhan Shaw Gardening was getting hard. But she loved cherry tomatoes. And she asked him, if he could design something, you know, that she wouldn’t have to bend over or get down on the ground. And that’s where the tomato volcano started. He started with prototypes and now it’s an amazing system. A community garden in Phoenix just installed them and they’re growing amazingly well just within a couple of weeks. And I remember one of the people from that team said, what do we have to do after they’re installed?
27:01 – Suibhan Shaw What do we have to do? And I said, you just have to make sure somebody hasn’t turned off the water. You know, the automated timers that somebody hasn’t turned the water off. Because these systems will grow on their own. You’ll want to check on them. You can even have a camera watching them, you know, that sort of thing. But they really are plant and sort of forget, I’d like to say.
27:27 – Hugh Ballou Well, we we’ve had a learning experience and I think you want to go to this growing to give.org and the link will be on the narrative for the website. This is Hugh with the nonprofit exchange. I want to tell you a minute about the community. Then we’ll come back to Siobhan just for what do you want to leave people with today? Because you’ve you’ve shown that people without. Supposed expertise can do something that they haven’t done before. And you just get it started and get going. And they don’t have to be perfect.
27:59 – Hugh Ballou So we have a private community. The community is CenterVision Community. You can get there by going to non profit community Dot org, non profit community org, and it will lead you there. And there’s a place you can network with people for free. We do have another level, people that want to learn more, want to network with live sessions, want to participate in workshops. There’s a whole lot of stuff to learn and no reason to have to go search for it when we’ve got an end-to-end process.
28:28 – Hugh Ballou It’s not just one thing that leaves you hanging. It’s you do this, what’s the next thing? Where do I have gaps? So come and join us. Nonprofitcommunity.org is where we’d like to network with you and you. Siobhan, you have taught me a lot of stuff, and I’ve been doing this a long time. And what I love about interviewing people like you that are creative, there’s new ideas to learn all the time. So if you think you know it all, good luck. But if you’re really aware, there’s lots of things to learn.
28:57 – Hugh Ballou So join us in the community. Siobhan, we’re at time here. So what do you want to leave people with, a challenge or a thought? What do you want to leave people with today?
29:06 – Suibhan Shaw I would like people to realize that the more people that know how to grow their own food, the more resilient our communities will be. Won’t go to bed hungry. And if we can expand our reach and our impact through collaborations with even organizations like, like Center Vision Leadership Foundation, which we will, we are going to be doing that. We talked about that already. So I think that that’s what I want people to get involved with the community gardens, the community farms, go talk to the farmers in your community, buy your food from them, support local farming and agriculture.
29:57 – Suibhan Shaw And if you have a space, start growing something. I watch people that are maybe around us where we live and all of a sudden we see pots of food popping up. Right. It’s very encouraging. It improves the biodiversity of any area that you live in. And if you can Focus on using less resources while you’re at it. That’s even better. Obviously. So we’re open to collaborations with other nonprofits. We are always welcoming volunteers. I believe we need somebody who can train for. DEI, which is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training.
30:51 – Suibhan Shaw And I don’t have enough time to tell you the story about that. And we have a Giving Tuesday campaign coming up on November 28th, where we want to ask for donations from the public so that we can purchase things like hand tools for the community gardens that we’re supporting. So, and of course we have a holiday gift giving campaign coming up where you’ll be able to buy that little guy there. And save the bees too, because all the community gardens, they grow these pollination gardens or pollinate the flowers so that the bees have something to feed on.
31:40 – Suibhan Shaw And without the bees, it won’t be a pretty sight.
31:45 – Hugh Ballou So, go look at her website, you’ll learn from what she’s doing. And, you know, if you don’t buy some guests, you’ve got an invitation, but learn how she’s doing this stuff. You’ve influenced me today and I’m sure a whole lot of other people. Thank you for being the guest today on the nonprofit exchange.
32:02 – Suibhan Shaw Thank you very much. I really appreciate it from my team. To you, we thank you for the time.
32:09 – Hugh Ballou Thank you.