About Us

Cultivating Pathways to Freedom through food and healing

Urban Growers Collective (UGC) was founded  by Laurell Sims and Erika Allen in the fall of 2017. Our approach is to demonstrate and support communities in developing community-based food systems where food is grown, prepared and distributed within their home communities. Working closely with more than 33 community partners, the goal is to build economic opportunity for youth and mitigate food insecurity and limited access to high quality, affordable and nutritionally dense food. Eight urban farms operate on 11-acres of land predominantly located on Chicago’s south side. These farms are production-oriented with staff integrating education, training, leadership development and food distribution to meet program goals.  Each farm utilizes organic growing methods and intensive growing practices that maximizes space and year-round production strategies. 

While farming is the foundation upon which we grow, helping people thrive is emphasis and the motivation for our work. UGC tackles food security through a variety of programming. Our portfolio of programs includes: the Fresh Moves Mobile Market; Farmers for Chicago, our job-readiness program which trains over 200 teens annually, 50 formerly incarcerated adults through an 18-month job-training program with Heartland Alliance, as well as our Incubator Farmer program which provides land and technical assistance for new Chicago farmers; our head- start preschool farm which serves over 145 preschoolers and their families in partnership with Ounce of Prevention; and finally, we provide education to a larger audience through a series of agriculture, small business development, and equality building workshops. Our core values honor shared leadership and collective decision making; racial, economic, gender and LGBTQ equity; and employee well-being: we have witnessed how these values lead to thoughtful, holistic programming and yield environments that nourish and create prosperity.

Urban Growers Collective is built upon the foundation of Growing Power, a nonprofit organization and land trust established in Milwaukee, WI in 1993. Growing Power operated its urban farming and education non-profit for 25-years before closing its doors in the Fall of 2017. Will Allen, Growing Power’s founder and CEO, inspired thousands of visitors annually — allowing folks to see first hand how local food centers can transform a community and inspiring the “Good Food Revolution”. The Growing Power Chicago branch was established in February 2002, to address the need for scalable food system models that were inclusive, impactful, and economically viable. The Chicago Office changed perceptions and policy regarding the viability of land tenure for food production, while addressing food insecurity, urban ecology, as well as community development. After Growing Power closed, Chicago’s leadership team, committed to continuing the legacy of Growing Power, formed UGC to build upon our 15-years of successes creating thriving urban farms and training programs in Chicago.

Follow the Drinking Gourd

Rooted in Growing Food, we cultivate nourishing environments which support health, economic development, healing and creativity through urban agriculture.

Food Access

Food Access

Providing communities with culturally-appropriate, nourishing and affordable produce year-round is our production goal. We meet this goal through:

  • Fresh Moves Mobile Market
  • Farmers' Markets and Neighborhood Farmstands
  • Community Garden Plots


Our Farmers for Chicago Program trains hundreds of teens, difficult-to-employ adults, and new farmers in the art of growing food.

  • Youth Corps Summer and After-School Employment
  • In partnership with Heartland Alliance, Job-READI employs difficult-to-employ adults
  • Farmer Incubation Program
Food Literacy Education

Food Literacy Education

We teach others how to grow food through a variety of platforms:

  • Pre-school gardening education in partnership with Ounce of Prevention
  • Farming and small business workshops
  • Cooking demonstrations at Fresh Moves sites


To help us meet our vision for a better Chicago.

Our Collective Members

Co-Founder / CEO, Operations

Erika Allen

Erika Allen is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Operations for the

Meet Me On:
Co-Founder / CEO, Finance

Laurell Sims

Laurell Sims is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Finance for Urban

Meet Me On:
Associate Director of Training Programs

Lauralyn Clawson

Lauralyn Clawson received her B.A. from Penn State University in Environmental Science.

Meet Me On:
Urban Farms Manager

Malcolm Evans

Malcolm Evans has served as the Production Manager for Urban Growers Collective since

Meet Me On:
%d bloggers like this: