We are a coalition of urban farms, community and school gardens, individuals and businesses working to support and expand sustainable agriculture in the Chicago region. Formed in 2002, AUA’s community includes more than 2,300 members throughout the Chicago area and beyond.

 

Our Mission

EDUCATE

We educate and train agriculture practitioners throughout the Chicago region.

ENDORSE

We endorse good practices for urban growing operations of all types and sizes.

CONNECT

We connect growers, consumers, and resources through an active coalition.

ADVOCATE

We advocate for policies that allow urban agriculture to thrive.

OUR TEAM

Ren Encinas

Advocacy Steward

Ren is from the California Central Valley and comes from a lineage of farmers in the Philippines. They are currently tending to the land in South Chicago with Catatumbo Cooperative Farm and have previously grown with Lightly Farmed and UIC’s Heritage Garden. As a land steward, they are committed to dismantling colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy within agriculture and uplifting Native and Black sovereignty and self-determination. They bring nearly a decade of experience in community organizing and anti-imperialist and anti-militarist movement building across Chicago. As an educator, they are passionate about nurturing political education spaces grounded in global BIPOC and working class people’s ongoing legacies of resistance. They also enjoy working with food and art to build community, share people’s histories, and envision free futures.

Email: Ren@auachicago.org

Bea Fry 

Development Coordinator

Bea hails from St. Paul, Minnesota and is a recent transplant to Chicago. They hold a B.A. in International Relations and a B.S. in Food Studies from Syracuse University. Their background includes research on violations of the Human Right to Adequate Food and Nutrition for transgender people of color. Bea is passionate about creating and maintaining a food system which is equitable for the LGBTQIA+ community and racial minorities, promoting the integration of international human rights rhetoric into the foundation of local food systems.

Email: Bea@auachicago.org 

 

Jazmin Martinez

Outreach Manager

Jazmin is a farmer from La Villita/Little Village neighborhood in Chicago and uses They/them pronouns. They are an owner-worker of Catatumbo Cooperative Farm currently located in South Chicago. They have previous experience working in social services providing crisis and trauma-informed support and connecting individuals and families to resources. Additionally, their background involves organizing within the immigrant rights movement. Through their work, they saw a need to create economic opportunities for historically excluded communities and was drawn to urban farming, particularly within a worker-cooperative model. Their work is grounded in reverence for the land and hands that feed and nourish us. They are committed to connecting urban agriculture with broader social justice movements to envision and create other possible worlds.

Email: jazmin@auachicago.org 

 

Viviana Okakpu

Programs Director

Viviana Gentry Fernandez-Pellon is a farmer rooted in Chicago’s south side. She is passionate about food and medicine sovereignty, reduction of soil and water toxicity, and generative economics. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and History from Oberlin College and has furthered her agricultural education by farming throughout North and Central America. She co-founded the community garden and 501(c)3 Cooperation Operation and The Chicago Mushroom Company, LLC. She grounds her work in a deep love for Chicagos land, water, and people.

Email: viviana@auachicago.org

Alexandra Hachem

Group Gap Coordinator

Alexandra is a produce safety and compliance expert who champions safe and sustainable food systems. She comes to AUA from the Produce Safety Program at the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture where she worked directly with growers, providing them with technical assistance and conducting farm audits and regulatory inspections. Her job also focused on community outreach and program development through collaboration with federal and state agencies, local organizations and industry stakeholders. Alexandra holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and a Master’s Degree in Food Technology. She grew up in a family of restaurateurs and has immense admiration for the people who put food on our table. Her work revolves around the values of fairness and respect for the earth and she is eager to start working with urban growers and together making a positive impact in the food system. 

Email: alexandra@auachicago.org

 

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

  • Leah Lawson

    Board President

    Curiously Bound, LLC

  • Selma Sims

    Vice President

    Gardeneers

  • Imron Bhatti

    Board Secretary

    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Pat Muench

    Board Treasurer

    Bailey & Glasser, LLP

  • Paul Krysik

    Windy City Harvest

  • Akilah Martin

    US Army Corps of Engineers

  • Aasia Castaneda

    Chicago Food Policy Action Council

  • Rosie Fitz

    HEAL Food Alliance

ASSOCIATE BOARD

  • Paul Krysik

    Windy City Harvest

  • Olivia Helms

    Loyola University

  • Jennifer Norsworthy

    CLOCC

  • Erica Helms

    Apologue Liqueurs

  • Danielle Russel

    Openlands

  • Regina Hawkins

    Southside Occupational Academy

  • Ilana Marder-Eppstein

    Big Green

  • Ali Yuen

    El Paseo Community Garden

  • Ray Dybzinski

    Loyola University

  • Ernie Nielsen

    Retired Attorney

  • Laurie Ouding

    Registered Nurse

  • Jessica Rome

    Hines VA Hospital

For details about our programs and progress, please review the 2020 AUA Annual Report.

Funding for AUA is generously provided by individual supporters and the following major sponsors:
The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community TrustJ.R. Albert Foundation Inc., Walter S. Mander Foundation, The Builders Initiative, The Lumpkin Family Foundation, CHIditarod Foundation, Illinois State Treasurer Charitable Trust, GroupOn, The Little Owl Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Trust & Apologue Liqueurs