Inspiring healthy living, economic opportunity, and community empowerment in Englewood

Mission and Vision

We have a vision of a world of healthy people and communities. Everyone deserves to have a good job, and everyone deserves to eat well.

That’s why we’ve been helping people find meaningful careers through skills learned while farming since 2002. Growing Home is Chicago’s leading expert in farm-based training for people with employment barriers. By providing 25 hours per week of paid on-the-job experience and job-readiness training at our farms, plus the support to conquer issues like criminal records, medical needs, child-care, and housing, we have changed the lives of hundreds of workers, and thousands of their family members.

We start people on the path to self-sufficiency. When people have jobs, they have economic stability in their lives; this stability allows for healthy people and families. But we don’t stop there: we use our unique model to impact neighborhoods with the greatest need. That’s why our farms are located in Englewood, a community on the South side of Chicago that has been under-served for decades and has extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, hundreds of acres of vacant lots, and a distinct lack of healthy food choices.

When communities have access to healthy food options, the overall well-being and health of the residents improves. With economic resources and physical health, neighbors are more able to participate in the rejuvenation of their community.

To help people find meaningful, sustaining careers, we train them in job skills, give them real work experience, and support them while they begin their careers by helping with job placement and life-planning. We not only provide the support people need to succeed, but also the space to define what success means to them. To transform our community, we offer our produce to our neighbors at significantly reduced prices, advocate for the issues impacting Englewood, and open up our space for trainings, workshops, and more.

Learn more about our impact.

Milestones

1992

Les Brown, founder of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, has a vision to help homeless Chicagoans gain job skills and rebuild their confidence through farming.

2002

Nine people enroll as participants in Growing Home’s first year of training.

2006

Development begins on the Wood Street Urban Farm and the job training program finds a permanent home in Englewood. The first 100 Production Assistants complete the training program.

2011

In part due to Growing Home’s precedent-setting Wood Street Farm, the City of Chicago passes a new ordinance making the establishment of an urban farm less daunting and more efficient for others. Growing Home’s Honore Street Farm is the first farm to open under the new ordinance.

2013

Growing Home is chosen as the winner of the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Award, and, at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, is named as the Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Strategy of the Year.

2014

Growing Home solidifies a partnership with Cabrini Green Legal Aid to help Production Assistants seal or expunge their criminal records, a primary employment barrier, and to offer legal assistance with housing, child custody, and other civil pursuits affecting their ability to succeed.

People without jobs are often without roots. They’re not tied down, not connected, not part of their family anymore. Our organic farming program is a way for them to connect with nature—to plant and nurture roots over a period of time. When you get involved in taking responsibility for caring for something, creating an environment that produces growth, then it helps you build self-esteem and feel more connected.

Les Brown, Founder of Growing Home

Our Team

Staff

John Briel
Development Associate

DeAndre Brooks
Assistant Site Manager

Bert Connelly
Development Assistant

Fred Daniels
Site Manager

Stephanie Douglass
Farm Enterprise Director

Laquandra Fair
Outreach Assistant

Alicia Feistamel
Case Management Coordinator

April Harrington
Development Director

Renee Howarth
Farm Sales Coordinator

Tonika Johnson
Program Manager

Courtney Kelledes
Director of Employment Training

Kristin Miodonski
Outreach Director

Harry Rhodes
Executive Director

Michelle Robinson
Crew Leader

Rebekah Silverman
Chief Operating Officer

Shelley Williams
Job Placement Associate

Jamie Winger
Employment Training Manager

Board of Directors

Laura Tilly
Board President, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, PC, Attorney

Lynn Sheck
Board Vice President, Finicity, Vice President

Steve Stanley
Board Secretary, Pastor and Community Organizer

Karl Riley
Board Treasurer, Fifth Third Bank, Business Banking Officer

Judith Aronson, PhD
Psychotherapist

Deborah Bennett
Polk Bros. Foundation, Senior Program Officer

Foster Dale
Foster Dale Architects, Principal

Jessica Dolan
Vice President of Development, USO of Illinois

Dan Kaplan
American Library Association, Marketing Manager

Ted Kennedy
All Star Trading, President & Owner

Pascale Kichler
Instructor, French Department, DePaul University

Diana Leifer
Educator & Chef

Micheal Newman-Brooks
The Kitchen Community, Garden Educator/Community Engagement Focus

Carolyn Ulrich
Chicagoland Gardening Magazine, Editor

Barbara Wallace
Writer

Marny Zimmer
Cook County State Attorney’s Office, Special Prosecutor, Crimes Strategy Task Force

Associate Board

Kevin Swan
Board Co-Chair

Larissa Mariano
Board Co-Chair

Tabitha Humphries
Board Secretary

Rashanah Baldwin

Mark Bourdenko

Charlotte Cottier

Liz Klante

Charles Kyle

Alexis Macias

Alessio Manti

Ted Miller

Gina Schammel

Jason Sloat

Marie Stringer

Leadership Council

Dionne Baux

JoAnn Blackman

Helen Cameron

Valerie Denney

David Doig

Lisa Gershenson

Perry Gunn

Ivan Handler

Ben Helphand

Karen Lehman

Amy Rynell

Colleen Sheehan

Tom Spaulding

Paul Virant

Paul Youngstrum