Our Story

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

Urban Growers Collective (UGC) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that was co-founded  by Laurell Sims and Erika Allen in the fall of 2017. Working closely with more than 35 community partners, our approach is to demonstrate the development of community-based food systems and to support communities in developing systems of their own where food is grown, prepared, and distributed within the community itself.

We operate eight urban farms on 11 acres of land, predominantly located on Chicago’s South Side. These farms are production-oriented but also offer opportunities for staff-led education, training, leadership development, and food distribution.  Each farm utilizes organic growing methods, intensive growing practices, and year-round production strategies to best maximize growing space.

Our Programming

While farming is the foundation upon which we grow, helping people thrive is our emphasis and the motivation for our work. We work towards building stronger, healthier communities through a variety of programming centered around Food Access, Job Training & Education, and Community Engagement. Through our programs, we provide training and education on urban agriculture and food systems; offer skill building experiences, jobs, and economic opportunities to youth; identify and lift up community priorities and needs; and use evidence-based practices to create safe and beautiful places for communities to convene, create, heal, and transform.

Our approach is to build economic opportunity for BIPOC urban growers and makers; mitigate food insecurity; and increase access to high quality, affordable, culturally-affirming, and nutritionally-dense food on Chicago’s South and West Sides. As a women- and BIPOC-led organization, healing through food justice is integral to our mission and in our approach to building market opportunities for producers, providing good food for the communities we serve, and throughout our programming.

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 create and nourish prosperity.

Our History

Urban Growers Collective is built upon the foundation of Growing Power, a non-profit organization and land trust established in Milwaukee, WI in 1993. Growing Power operated its urban farm and educational workshops for 25 years before closing its doors in the fall of 2017. Will Allen, Growing Power’s founder and CEO, welcomed thousands of visitors annually — allowing folks to see firsthand how local food hubs 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 community perceptions and City policies regarding the viability of land tenure for food production while also addressing food insecurity, urban ecology, and 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 in Chicago.

Our logo was inspired by the legacy of the Drinking Gourd. “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd” was a song used by conductors of the Underground Railroad to guide enslaved people to freedom using the Big Dipper, or in African culture, the imagery of the drinking gourd. Using the North Star as their guide, enslaved men, women, and children fought their way to freedom. We hope that though our work, we honor the stories and sacrifices of our ancestors. By reclaiming activism and growing food, we give the tools to foster resilience, growth, and personal freedom.

Questions?

Reach out at info@urbangrowerscollective.org or (773) 376-8882.