Our Team

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Erika Allen
Co-Founder & CEO - Operations

Erika Allen (she/her) is the Co-Founder & CEO – Operations for Urban Growers Collective and the President of Green ERA Educational NFP and Co-Owner of Green Era Sustainability Partners. Previously, Allen founded and was the Director of Growing Power – Chicago for 15 years from 2002 to 2017. Allen is the co-founder of  the Chicago Food Policy Action Council, serves on the board of Grow Greater Englewood and Leadership Council for Growing Home, and is an advisor for the Community Food Navigator project. Allen has been appointed by IL Governor J.B. Pritzker for the IL Leadership Council for Agricultural Education (ICAE) for a 3 Year term (2022-2024). Allen was recently appointed by the Biden Administration to join the Farm Service Agency Committee for Illinois. She is also a Co-Chair of the Food Equity Council for the City of Chicago.  Allen received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and her MA in Art Psychotherapy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She uses her experience as a visual artist to consult with individuals and organizations to support their visioning of social and economic changes. She is passionate about social justice and working with multicultural groups in the elimination of racism, related oppressions, and the root causes of poverty by integrating creative and therapeutic techniques alongside food security and community development.

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Lauralyn Clawson
Director of Operations

Lauralyn Clawson (she/her) received her B.A. from Penn State University in Environmental Science. Lauralyn’s expertise revolves around youth education, urban farming production, hoop house installation and mushroom production. Lauralyn is the Director of Operations for Urban Growers Collective.  In addition to her work at UGC, Lauralyn is an expert in compost policy and co-leads the Licensing and Animal Welfare working groups for the Chicago Food Policy Action Council. Lauralyn Clawson managed the Youth Corps Program for Growing Power – Chicago, and worked for the organization 10 years prior to its closing in 2017.

Darion Crawford
Urban Farmer & Compost Coordinator

Darion Crawford (he/him) has been farming since he was 16-years-old.  He began his journey with agriculture at Marshall High School in Chicago, where he studied farming, and was chosen to be one of the first 15 year-round students of the Growing Power Chicago Youth Corps in 2006. After graduation, Darion began working with Growing Power Chicago as a youth corps and adult-job training instructor. Darion also led workshops nationally for Growing Power in hoop-house and aquaponics construction, as well as large-scale composting.

Darion left Growing Power in 2014 to manage for Home Depot in Chicago, where he picked up valuable skills in team leadership and development, as well as honing his wise-cracking wit much to the delight of the co-founders (and his original youth corps instructors) at UGC.

Darion began work with Urban Growers Collective in March, 2020. At UGC, he has taught youth at the Roosevelt Square Youth Farm, as well as assisted with the READI and Grounds for Peace program.

Joshua Hughes
Fresh Moves Mobile Market Manager

Joshua Hughes (he/him) was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated from Arizona State University with his B.S. in Sociology in 2018. His community engagement experience stems from the artist community where he helped co-found an annual arts and music festival called “Melanincholy Music Festival” in Columbus from 2016-2017. Joshua has always aimed to center BIPOC and LGBTQ folks by building platforms for creativity.  As the manager of UGC’s Fresh Moves Mobile Market, he plans to further assist the development of food security in Chicago as a continued action in social justice. Joshua’s six years in food management have given him expertise in product sales, inventory management, facility sanitization, and customer service.

In his free time he enjoys music production, playing guitar, and biking long distances.

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Debbie O'Connor
Human Resources Manager

Debbie O’Connor (she/her) is excited about being a part of Urban Growers Collective as the first Human Resources Manager. Debbie is uniquely suited to the Urban Growers Collective, with experience not only in HR Administration, but Food Service, Transportation & Logistics, and Community focused non-profit organizations.

A lifetime Chicagoland native, Debbie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, Loyola University and an Associates Degree in Culinary Arts, Kendall College. In her free time, Debbie enjoys cooking with her family, with her husband, Brian and two children, Olivia and Addison.

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Mac Svolos
Administrative Coordinator

Mac Svolos (he/him) is the Administrative Coordinator for Urban Growers Collective.  He graduated with a BA in Sociology and Theology from Creighton University, where he became involved in environmental justice work.  After living and working at an urban farm in Kansas City, Mac moved to Chicago in 2018 and has worked as a cook, barista, and office manager.  He is excited to be working to create sustainable food systems in Chicago, and is passionate about hospitality.  He enjoys biking the lakefront trail, baking bread, and porch sitting.

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Derrick Patrick
Fresh Moves Mobile Market Purchasing Coordinator

Derrick Patrick (he/him) is the Fresh Moves Mobile Market Purchasing Coordinator for Urban Growers Collective. His background is in community engagement and cannabis advocacy.  He received his B.S. in Marketing with a focus on Communications and Finance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a former Division I baseball player and home cook, from the West Side of Chicago (Austin), he brings an energy and passion for a health conscious diet and a lifestyle that fosters holistic health. He intends to be a key player in food justice and urban agriculture throughout Chicagoland for the betterment of communities in most need.

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Reverend Kim Crutcher
Lead Conductor, Herbalism Apprenticeship Program

As Lead Conductor for Urban Growers Collective’s Herbal Apprenticeship program, Reverend Kim Crutcher brings a lifetime of passion and curiosity about plants, nature and the impulse to heal. An Interfaith Minister, educator and licensed mental health counselor (MAPC, LCPC) , Kim uses the term ‘Conductor’ as a reminder to support and guide apprentices and community members in their personal journeys with herbalism.  For over twenty years she’s shared insight, and the creative process as an artist and as a folk healer for those seeking change on multiple levels. Using evidence-based therapies, a trauma-informed approach, and culturally sensitive frameworks Kim offers supportive care for individuals,  groups, organizations and communities. Kim discovered her first herbalism book on her Mama Alice’s bookshelf when she was a little kid growing up in rural Tennessee. Since then she has studied plant traditions from multiple perspectives with many wise teachers ; and she shares the knowledge gained as a community herbalist. She brings over 30 years as a student herbalist to a practice of holistic change-making that privileges liberation, play, investigative urges, gift making and responsiveness. She’s so glad that the Mysterious Mycelial System that makes things grow with health in unexpected places led her to join the UGC team.

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Marina Garcia
Youth Program Coordinator

Marina Garcia (she/her) is the Youth Program Coordinator for Urban Growers Collective. She started her sustainable agriculture career at the ripe age of 15, work through Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Program, which is similar to a youth program she helps Urban Growers Collective with today. She studied Sustainable Agriculture at College of Lake County and received her Certificate and Associates in Applied Sciences. She studied a bit at Loyola University Chicago studying Sustainable Agriculture: Food Systems and gained a lot of valuable knowledge. In the past few years, Marina helped pilot an equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility at the Chicago Botanic Garden to help fight against systemic racism within the institution. She was awarded Employee of Distinction in 2021, and got a certificate from Hansra Consulting Services through DePaul University in Trauma Informed Care Training. She is looking forward to get to know her team and work with more BIPOC people and communities within the Chicago land area.’

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Elijah Crawford
Farm and Harvest Assistant

Elijah Crawford (he/him) was originally introduced to farming by his brother Darion and cousin Reggie, when they started in the Youth Corps program at Growing Power. At UGC, Elijah has worked at the farm, served as logistics support and supported sales at the Englewood Village Market. Elijah loves to cook, and was formerly self-employed as a food cart vendor where he prepared homemade gourmet recipes. In his spare time, he loves to spend time in his hometown of Milwaukee and see his daughter.

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Paige Tobin
Farm Administrative Coordinator

Paige Tobin (she/her) is the Farm Administrative Coordinator for Urban Growers Collective. She received her BA in Anthropology/Sociology and Critical Ethnic Studies from Kalamazoo College. Paige is originally from Battle Creek, MI and has lived and worked in Chicago since 2019.

Paige enters this work with reverence for community, storytelling, and our shared connection to the land. She uses her background in informal education and program coordination to support the power of informal, collective education among youth and community members as a part of the Farm Program Team.

In her free time, you can find Paige in her backyard garden tending her tomatoes, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or reading a book. Come by the South Chicago Farm anytime to say hi!”

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Alyssa Alcordo
Seasonal Farm Worker

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Laurell Sims
Co-Founder & CEO - Finance

Laurell Sims (she/her) is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Finance & Food Access for Urban Growers Collective (UGC). She received her BA in Government and Asian Studies, with an emphasis on Chinese language study, from the University of Redlands and 北京水利水电学院. Laurell worked at Growing Power Chicago for 11-years as the Production and Marketing Manager, after working as the organization’s Education Coordinator. Formerly, Laurell was the Director for Victory Program’s ReVision House Urban Farm, a farm-training program for mothers experiencing housing instability in Dorchester, MA.

Laurell is a graduate from the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business program, and currently serves as the cohort’s alumni ambassador. In 2020, she was chosen as a James Beard Women in Entrepreneurial Leadership Fellow. She serves on the Board of Directors for Mentorship Pathway, and formerly served on the Boards of Slow Food Chicago and Green City Market. In 2011, Laurell was selected as a Bold Food Fellow, a State Department exchange with farmers from Uganda and Kenya to strengthen urban farming programs, and has overseen projects with urban farms in Port-au-Prince’s Cité Soleil District in Haiti.

In her spare time, Laurell is a volunteer magician for Open Heart Magic, a non-profit, which provides beside magic for hospitalized children.

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Malcolm Evans
Director of Farming

Malcolm Evans (he/him) began as the Production Manager for Urban Growers Collective in 2017 and became the Director of Farming in 2022.  Formally, Malcolm was a Production and Marketing Program Assistant at Growing Power, Inc. for the seven-years prior to its closing. Malcolm began his farming career at the age of 10, when Growing Power installed the Chicago Lights Urban Farm and Community Garden in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood. While still in high school, Malcolm began the composting program at Growing Power Chicago, collecting compost from restaurants throughout the city after-school and on weekends. Mr. Evans began working full-time with Growing Power after graduating from Wells High School, and has expertise in compost management, production and produce sales. 

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Brandon Lov
Development Manager

Brandon Lov (he/him) is the Development Manager for Urban Growers Collective. He graduated from the University of Chicago in June 2019 with a degree in Public Policy and Environmental & Urban Studies. Brandon started at Urban Growers Collective in the summer of 2018 as a seasonal urban agriculture intern. During his internship, Brandon worked extensively at our farms, as well as helping with sales for the Fresh Moves Mobile Market and local farmers’ markets. Since then, Brandon has led the fundraising team at Urban Growers Collective, from leading successful galas to stewarding the organization through the massive fundraising needs for emergency food relief in a global pandemic.

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Siobhan Beal
Harvest & Market Distribution Coordinator

Siobhan Beal (she/her) is on the farm/harvest team with Urban Growers Collective. She got her BA in Environmental Studies from Earlham College. She started with Growing Power as an intern and apprentice over the summers of 2012 and 2013. After graduation, she began working full-time with Growing Power farming and working as the education teacher at the pre-school farm. Siobhan was bit by the travel bug, and in 2017 left to travel to New Zealand and Australia. She worked vineyards, dairy farms, and other odd jobs. She was enthusiastically welcomed back to UGC in 2020, and was ready to get her hands back in the soil and take care of our cute goats!

In her free time, she loves experimenting and learning new cooking, pickling, and baking recipes. Siobhan also loves climbing, playing with my family’s corgi, and a solid hammock nap.

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Xavier Colon
Farm Educator

Xavier Colon (he/they) is an Urban Farm Worker for Urban Growers Collective who joined the team in the Summer 2020 Internship Program. Xavier is a Youth Mentor for Semillas y Raices, a cultural urban garden and center in North Lawndale. They are an active community support and surrogate for the Restorative Justice Community Court (RJCC) of North Lawndale and a representative of the International Indigenous Youth Council – Chicago Chapter (IIYC).

Xavier received an AA in Philosophy at Joliet Junior College and a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies focused on Environmental Education and Justice Studies from Northeastern Illinois University. They are passionate about serving community and cultural preservation.

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Vernon Fleming
Green Era Mission Manager

Vernon Fleming (he/him) has more than 14 years of experience assisting startups and not-for-profits in creating integrated IT systems for their organizational systems. Vernon also comes to Urban Growers Collective with 5 years of experience in grant management, philanthropic fundraising, and scholarship attainment having raised over $2.5 million dollars in grants, donations, and scholarships. He is also a certified anger management educator and has a deep love of cooking.

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Leann Ngo
Volunteer & Community Coordinator

Leann (she/her) was born in Chicago, IL and graduated from Loyola University with a BA in Environmental Policy. During the pandemic, she went back to school and obtained her Advanced Certificate in Sustainable Urban Horticulture at Richard J. Daley College to become a farmer. She grew up growing Vietnamese produce with her family in their backyard in order to have access to meals they were familiar with. As the daughter of refugees, she has a personal mission to provide accessible, healthy, familiar, and local foods to Chicago communities. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, camping, paddle boarding in Lake Michigan, playing video games, and caring for her pet Chinchilla.

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Mykele Deville
Farm Programs Coordinator

Mykele Deville (he/him) is the current Farm Programs Coordinator at UGC.His pronouns are he/him. He is new to the Urban Agriculture sector but passionate about fighting for equitable change and access in all forms. He is also a musical artist and poet from the west side of Chicago. He has performed on stages across the country and led workshops on hip-hop and identity. His work has been profiled in Billboard, Afropunk, Flood Mag, Bandcamp, Noisey, OK Player, The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun Times, The Reader, Consequence of Sound, Vocalo radio, and NPR radio. He received a BFA in Performance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is also a founding collective member of Growing Concerns Poetry Collective and has a joint book of poetry with the group entitled Five Fifths, published by Candor Arts.

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Courtney Moran
CRM Coordinator

Courtney Moran (she/her) is excited to join Urban Growers Collective as the CRM Coordinator. Courtney is a first-generation college graduate with a B.S. in Biology and Chemistry from Northeastern Illinois University. Prior to earning her undergraduate degree, she went to culinary school and studied baking and pastry arts. Courtney’s passion for food drove her out of the professional kitchen and into a farm apprenticeship with Henry’s Farm, a small sustainable farm in Central Illinois. She continued working with Henry’s Farm as a farmhand and then as a volunteer manager at the Evanston Farmers’ Market. While earning her degree at NEIU, she was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship to research soil fertility in agriculture. She has also worked with Farm Together Now, investigating and reporting on agriculture policy and news, farming practices, and local events. In addition to her work at UGC, Courtney is a volunteer Treekeeper with Openlands and an Illinois Food Scrap Coalition member. In her free time, you might find Courtney playing ball with her cat, reading too many books at once, or making experimental music.

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Tem Jones
Fresh Moves Mobile Market Sales Associate

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Becky Fair
PreSchool Garden Educator

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Gabriel Macias
Seasonal Farm Worker

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Anthony Fisher
Seasonal Farm Worker

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Tyler Kinney
Fresh Moves Mobile Market Sales Associate

Questions?

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