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.



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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


Fred Daniels
Director of Urban Farms

Willie Danner
Senior Farm Crew Leader

LaQuandra Fair
Community Engagement Associate

Sonia Garcia
Farm Sales Associate

Chrissy Gargano
Grants and Communications Coordinator

April Harrington
Chief Operating Officer

Olivia Helms
Farm Crew Leader

Camesha Jones
Case Management Coordinator

Stephen McCary
Farm Crew Leader

Amelia Nawn
Program Operations Associate

Brittany Norment
Development Assistant

Cassidy Olson
Individual Giving Associate

Danielle Perry
Executive Director

Ursula Phillips-Levi
Site Maintenance Assistant

Jaclyn Santi
Employment Training Associate

Janelle St. John
Chief Development Officer

Shelley Williams
Job Placement Associate

Jamie Winger
Director of Employment Training

Board of Directors

Lynn Sheck
Board President
Finicity, Vice President

Karl Riley
Board Vice President
Fifth Third Bank, Business Banking Officer

Steve Stanley
Board Secretary
Pastor and Community Organizer

Shawn Boone
Board Treasurer
PNC Bank, AVP Branch Manager

Judith Aronson, PhD

Jennifer Ballard Croft
Chief of Staff to Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx & Chief Diversity Officer

Mecca Bey
Grow Greater Englewood, Lead Engagement/Operations Specialist

Chasity Boyce
Heitman, Vice President, Head of Diversity and

Foster Dale
Foster Dale Architects, Principal

Dan Kaplan
American Library Association, Marketing Manager

Pascale Kichler
Instructor, French Department, DePaul University

Micheal Newman-Brooks
City of Chicago, Department of Planning & Development, Project Manager of Urban Agriculture

Kevin Swan
United Senior Services, General Manager

Laura Tilly
Attorney, Retired

Carolyn Ulrich
Chicagoland Gardening Magazine, Editor

Barbara Wallace

Stewart J. Weiss
Holland & Knight LLP, Attorney

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

Associate Board

Larissa Mariano
Board Chair
The Family Institute at Northwestern University, Executive Assistant

Tabitha Humphries
Board Secretary
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Attorney

Michael Agombar
Vokal, Product Analyst

Rashanah Baldwin
Chicago Public Media, Metro Desk Producer & Writer

Mark Bourdenko
The Chartis Group, Consultant

Mackenzie Canfield
Inspiration Corporation, Employment Preparation & Placement Specialist

Bert Connelly
University of Chicago, Graduate Student

Charlotte Cottier
Campbell & Company, Nonprofit Communications Consultant

Charles Dabah
The Levantine Kitchen, Chef and Owner

Dillon Flynn
Invenergy, Control Room Operator

Alexis Macias
Loyola University School of Social Work, Graduate Student

Ted Miller
Synchrony Financial, VP of Loyalty Analytics

Olivia Rath
Deloitte, Consultant

Liz Rosenthal
DigitasLBi, Project Manager

Gina Schammel
Chicago Food Planet & Food Tours, Sales & Private Events Director

Kim Smith
University of Chicago Urban Labs, Sr. Research Manager

Emily Steinhauer
Top Box Foods, Delivery Coordinator

Marie Stringer
Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, Development & Communications Manager

Katharine Uhrich
The Field Museum, Social Media Manager

Michelle Xie
Numerator, Client Services Analyst

Leadership Council

Diana Leifer

Lauri Alpern

Kim Bartko

Deborah Bennett

JoAnn Blackman

Helen Cameron

Valerie Denney

David Doig

Lisa Gershenson

Perry Gunn

Ivan Handler

Ben Helphand

Ted Kennedy

Karen Lehman

Dale Rainville

Amy Rynell

Colleen Sheehan

Paul Youngstrum