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.


Laura Calvert

Executive Director

Laura joined AUA as Executive Director in the summer of 2017. She brings more than 10 years experience in the sustainable agriculture field. Laura has farmed on various operations throughout the country, most recently with the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest program for eight seasons. There, she trained hundreds of youth and adult program participants in agricultural practices and managed the business operations of the program. Laura is also a founding board member of the Illinois Farmers Market Association and appointed member of the Illinois Farmers Market Task Force. She graduated from Bradley University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. She also holds a certificate in food hub management from the University of Vermont. Laura dreams of running her own garlic farm one day.

Email: director@auachicago.org

Nick Lucas

Civic Programs Manager

Nick is an avid community gardener and has been passionate about the impact of urban agriculture to transform lives and communities since beginning his career in workforce development for homeless job seekers. His multi-disciplinary experience spans working in rural farming communities overseas while teaching English, to public health field work addressing the same legacy industrial toxins urban soils are so often challenged to address. In addition to being an AUA member and now staff since 2015, Nick is a licensed commercial pilot and certified Scuba diver.

Email: outreach@auachicago.org

Viviana Gentry Fernandez-Pellon

Technical Assistance Manager

Viviana Gentry Fernández-Pellón 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 Chicago’s land, water, and people.

Email: viviana@auachicago.org


  • Harry Rhodes

    Board President

    Growing Home

  • Leah Lawson

    Board Vice President

    Curiously Bound, LLC

  • Imron Bhatti

    Board Secretary

    U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Pat Muench

    Board Treasurer

    Bailey & Glasser, LLP

  • Robert Nevel

    Robert Nevel Architects

  • Elvia Rodriguez Ochoa


  • Angela Taylor

    Garfield Park Community Council

  • Patsy Benveniste

    Chicago Botanic Garden (Retired)

  • Darius Jones

    Garfield Produce Company


  • Sean Ruane

    Big Green

  • Ali Yuen

    El Paseo Community Garden

  • Bridget Armanini

    Arrive Fresh

  • Ray Dybzinski

    Loyola University

  • Nanci Garoon Leigner

    Human Resources Director

  • Paul Krysik

    Windy City Harvest

  • Ernie Nielsen

    Retired Attorney

  • Laurie Ouding

    Registered Nurse

  • Marlie Wilson

    Chicago Food Policy Action Council

  • Jessica Rome

    Hines VA Hospital

Funding for AUA is generously provided by individual supporters and the following major sponsors:
J.R. Albert Foundation Inc., Walter S. Mander Foundation, The Lumpkin Family Foundation, CHIditarod Foundation,
The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, Illinois State Treasurer Charitable Trust, The Little Owl Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Trust & Apologue Liqueurs