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


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.


Sean Ruane

Executive Director

Sean is deeply committed to building a more just and equitable food system in Chicago. He was born and currently lives on the southwest side of Chicago and developed a love for growing food at an early age, while spending time at his grandparents farm in Ireland. Sean holds a B.A in Education and an M.A in Justice Education. He has worked as an educator and non-profit leader for almost a decade, serving six years as a classroom teacher and social justice educator, and three years as the co-founder and director of Just Roots Chicago. In his work with Just Roots Chicago, Sean led fundraising and development efforts, co-led growing operations, and fostered strategic partnerships with community organizations. Sean also spent several years with Big Green, where he worked to equip teachers and students at CPS schools with the skills and resources to utilize their school garden as a space for local food production and food literacy programming. Sean is dedicated to working collectively with farmers, community gardeners, and advocates to to strengthen our local food system and foster more resilient communities.

Email: director@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 Gentry Fernandez-Pellon

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: director@auachicago.org

Bea Fry

Outreach Manager

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


Emily O’Keeffe

Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Emily is originally from the Southwest side of Chicago and has an MBA in Marketing & a BA in Environmental Policy. For the past several years, Emily has worked as an Events & Marketing Coordinator within the bar & restaurant industry of Chicago, hosting events that have contributed to nonprofit fundraising & community development, including events for urban farms and farmers markets. Emily looks forward to working with AUA to refocus her passion on environmental justice & use her experience to promote the education, advocacy & development of urban agriculture in Chicago.

Email: Emily@auachicago.org



  • Leah Lawson

    Board President

    Curiously Bound, LLC

  • Selma Sims

    Vice President


  • 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

  • Harry Rhodes

    Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT)

  • Patsy Benveniste

    Chicago Botanic Garden (Retired)


  • Ali Yuen

    El Paseo Community Garden

  • Bridget Armanini

    Arrive Fresh

  • Ray Dybzinski

    Loyola University

  • Nanci Garoon Leigner

    Human Resources Director

  • Ernie Nielsen

    Retired Attorney

  • Laurie Ouding

    Registered Nurse

  • Jessica Rome

    Hines VA Hospital

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