Our Mission

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.


We educate and train agriculture practitioners throughout the Chicago region.


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


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


We advocate for policies that allow urban agriculture to thrive.


Ren Encinas

Organizing 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 and Strategic Partnership Steward

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

Co-operations Stewards

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

Co-operations Steward

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



  • Selma Sims



  • Aasia Castaneda

    Vice President

    PGM ONE (People of the Global Majority in Outdoors, Nature and Environment)

  • Imron Bhatti

    Board Secretary

    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Pat Muench

    Board Treasurer

    Bailey & Glasser, LLP

  • Akilah Martin

    US Army Corps of Engineers

  • Rosie Fitz

    HEAL Food Alliance

For details about our programs and progress, please review AUA’s Annual Report 2021

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