July 28, 2017

Laura Calvert Named New Executive Director of Advocates for Urban Agriculture

Laura and goatAdvocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) is very pleased to announce that the 501(c)(3) organization has chosen Laura Calvert as its new Executive Director. She succeeds Billy Burdett, who led the organization for five years before leaving to farm full time. Laura comes to AUA from an eight-year stint with the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest program, where her last position was as Food Safety and Compliance Supervisor. In that capacity, she managed the Windy City Harvest combined food sales and markets; implemented best practices in training and food safety; and collaborated with a wide range of stakeholders, including government agencies, community organizations, medical and educational institutions, and funders on issues related to urban agriculture and community development.

Laura has a B.S. in Business Administration and Management from Bradley University, where she graduated first in her class, and has been active in state farming organizations. She is a founding board member and fundraising chair for the Illinois Farmers Market Association, and a member of the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Farmers Market Task Force. Laura holds professional certificates from the University of Vermont as a Food Hub Manager, the Chicago Area Project in Advancing Youth Development, from SafeServ as Food Safety Manager, and from the University of Illinois-Extension’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program.

Laura will lead AUA at an important time in its fifteen-year history, helping staff and board members forge a new strategic plan to guide the organization’s next phase of development: as the leading Chicagoland hub for information and expertise about urban agriculture; as an advocate for progressive food policies at the city and county level; and as a provider of direct assistance for urban and suburban farmers.

Robert Nevel, AUA’s vice president, noted that, “After reviewing more than two dozen applicants and a deliberate, nearly three-month-long recruitment process, the search committee’s unanimous choice was Laura. We are delighted that she will be joining us, and invite the public to come and meet her as she launches her AUA tenure at our Grown in Chicago Summer Soirée and Showcase, August 10, 2017, at Big Delicious Planet on Chicago’s near west side.”

Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit coalition of Chicago-area gardeners, farmers, organizations, businesses and others who seek to expand and strengthen urban agriculture, from home- and community-based growing to market gardens and small farms. Its Advocacy, Connections and Resources Working Groups support the growth of the urban agriculture movement through policy, community outreach, educational & networking events, knowledge & skill sharing, and informational resources. With over 2,000 members and 2,300 listserv subscribers, AUA is the hub and voice of Chicagoland’s urban agriculture community.

July 25, 2017

Join us for Grown in Chicago: Urban Agriculture Soirée & Showcase, August 10th!

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You’re invited! Join Advocates for Urban Agriculture (AUA) for the 3rd annual Grown in Chicago: Summer Soirée & Showcase! This homegrown gala celebrating sustainable agriculture features a hyper-local urban farm-to-table dinner with produce from the fields of 18 urban farms right here in Chicago, including: Gardeneers, The Urban Canopy, Cedillo’s Fresh Produce, Chicago Patchwork Farms, McDowell Farm School, Windy City Harvest, The Cooperation Operation, OTIS Fresh Farm, South Side Occupational Academy, KAM Isaiah Israel Food Justice and Sustainability Program, Chicago FarmWorks, Planted Chicago, Growing Home, GlennArt Farm, Global Garden Refugee Training Farm, City Farm, A Just Harvest, and Big Delicious Planet!

In addition to enjoying their rich harvest for dinner, you’ll get to connect with the inspiring growers themselves at the evening’s farmers market-style showcase. Learn more about their work and potential ways to collaborate! There will also be opportunities for entrepreneurs to network with urban agriculture funders, including Sustainable Local Food Investment Group (SLoFIG), Accion Chicago, The Hatchery, The Good Food Accelerator, and the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Learn about opportunities and emerging possibilities to take your urban farm or garden to another level!

Early-bird tickets are now on sale here through July 31st, and at $60 for this homegrown dinner + open bar (or $50 for dinner only), this is the most affordable farm-to-table dinner in Chicago, and a great way to support the urban agriculture movement!

The open bar will feature the locally produced craft work of KOVAL Distillery, Lagunitas Brewing Co, Revolution Brewing, and Dark Matter Coffee. Returning by popular demand to set the ambience is Chicago’s own bluegrass band Cicada Summer, and this unique evening will be held at the urban farm of the 4-Star Certified Green Restaurant & Caterer, Big Delicious Planet, 412 North Wolcott Ave, on Thursday, August 10th, 6pm-9pm.

All funds raised will support AUA’s ongoing advocacy, outreach, and educational efforts. With a network of over 2,000 individuals and organizations, AUA is Chicago’s urban agriculture hub. AUA envisions a flourishing food system that promotes urban agriculture in the Chicago area as an integral part of community economic development, food security, environmental sustainability, and overall quality of life for the region, and in which practitioners, organizations, and residents can reap the benefits.

Celebrate and support a flourishing local food system here in Chicago! Don’t miss the best local food deal of the summer – get your early-bird tickets here before July 31st! Spread the word and see you there!

AUA gratefully acknowledges the generous support of this evening from the Walter S. Mander Foundation, Fresh Taste, KOVAL Distillery, Revolution Brewing Company, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Garfield Park Conservatory, The Organic Gardener, Endless Greens, and Organic Valley

Summer Soiree
July 1, 2017

CPS Board Votes to Adopt Good Food Purchasing Policy!

We are thrilled to bring you the news of another good food victory! The Chicago Public School Board voted on June 28, 2017, to adopt the Good Food Purchasing Program, which will mean a better plate for 380,000 students! An important source of healthy food for children in the city, Chicago Public Schools make their meals free to all students while serving nearly 27 million breakfasts and 43 million lunches per school year, and spending close to $80 million on food purchases in 2016 – 2017. The policy will shift these procurement dollars towards food that is sustainable, local, humane, fair and healthy.

The Good Food Purchasing Program provides a metric-based framework and set of tools that guide institutions to direct their buying power toward suppliers that meet benchmarks related to five core values: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition. The Good Food Purchasing Program is a leading model across the country and the first of its kind to support these food system values in equal measure. Last year, San Francisco Unified School District and Oakland Unified School Districts formally adopted the Program following the leadership of Los Angeles Unified School District in 2012.

Imagine the impact if the largest public institutions in cities across the country took a unified stand for Good Food. We could redirect billions of dollars to suppliers that share our values, create ripple effects throughout the industry and influence the national conversation around what a truly equitable and sustainable food system looks like,” says Colleen McKinney, Associate Director of the Center for Good Food Purchasing.

A big shout out to all the people and organizations that helped make this happen, including: the Good Food Purchasing Center, Food Chain Workers Alliance, The Chicago Food Policy Action Council, the Chicago Good Food Taskforce including multiple City of Chicago Sister Agencies (Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Park District, Chicago City Colleges, Chicago Housing Authority) and Departments (Department of Public Health, Department of Family and Support Services, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Aviation, and Procurement). With additional support from the Chicago Good Food Purchasing Coalition including: Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Fair Trade Chicago, FamilyFarmed, Food and Water Watch, Grow Greater Englewood, Growing Power, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago, Seven Generations Ahead, and Warehouse Workers for Justice.

Read more here and join us in congratulating the Chicago Public School Board for supporting healthy food access and sustainable agriculture! And onward as the coalition continues to work towards city-wide adoption of the Good Food Purchasing Program in Chicago!


June 13, 2017

YOUR INPUT NEEDED! Urban Farm Business License Proposal

Advocates for Urban Agriculture, Chicago Food Policy Action Council (CFPAC), and other community partners are working to ensure a clear and reasonable process for an urban farm business license. The city requires a business license to do business, and urban agriculture is not exempt (believe us, we tried that first!). Currently, urban agriculture entrepreneurs are directed to a variety of licenses that do not suit urban agriculture, including a peddler’s license (which can only be held by a person, not a business, and has restrictions on hours of operation and locations), or a Wholesale Food License (which costs $660 biannually).

After extensive conversations between AUA, CFPAC and the mayor’s office, there is a proposal and WE NEED YOUR INPUT! The proposal is to modify the Mobile Produce Merchant business license to include urban farm businesses. Almost everything about this route looks good:

  • ItImage result for chicago city hall would allow urban farms, even those with permanent structures that are used for food production (such as storage/refrigeration/office space, greenhouses, aquaponic facilities, etc), to obtain a license that costs $125 every 2 years and does not require inspections or certification
  • It would allow farms with this license to have onsite produce stands
  • There are no restrictions on hours of operation or “exclusionary zones” of sales
  • The farm is registered under its business name rather than requiring a license for each owner

HOWEVER, here is where we need your feedback: the issue with this license is it requires that at least 50% of “produce merchant business” be done “within areas underserved by grocery stores”. The city says it is not possible to fully exempt urban farms from this criteria since the license was developed specifically to increase healthy food access in underserved areas. BUT, it is possible to address this requirement in creative ways to ensure that it doesn’t create a major obstacle for urban farming businesses.

We are exploring a list of qualifying criteria, and as long as a farm meets at least ONE of them it would qualify for this license. Please provide your feedback with this brief survey on each of the following possible qualifying criteria. What kind of requirements can you go along with that wouldn’t handcuff your or other urban agriculture operations? How would each affect your operation? What other options can you think of? How could these or other ideas be improved?

  • Reduce the required percentage sold to underserved areas to 20% or a different number
  • Farms located in underserved communities meet the criteria by virtue of their location
  • The farm has at least one employee from an underserved community
  • The farm sells to businesses based in underserved communities
  • Otherwise more broadly defining what “produce merchant business” in “areas underserved by grocery stores” means (for example, “underserved by locally grown food”)
  • Replacing it with a more general requirement to benefit the farm’s community or underserved communities
  • The requirement applies only to farm businesses with a revenue of $X or more
  • The farm is enrolled in the Double Value SNAP coupon program
  • Other ideas?

photo 5In order to determine what could be workable, both for the current urban agriculture landscape and for the one we’re trying to build, we need the input of Chicago’s entire urban agriculture community! Please weigh in on each of the above criteria with this brief survey.

With your ideas and insight, we can ensure a reasonable license that doesn’t handcuff current and future small scale, grassroots, urban farming businesses, regardless of where they’re able to establish their growing operation. Questions? Reach out to info@auachicago! Thanks for contributing to the best possible route for urban farm business licenses!


Click here for City of Chicago Information on Neighborhoods Underserved by Grocery Stores.