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


Janelle St. John
Executive Director

Zachary Austin
Farm and Program Associate

Gina Caruso
Outsourced Chief Financial Officer

Marlene Ceja
Director of Development

Fred Daniels
Urban Farm Site Manager

LaQuandra Fair
Community Engagement Coordinator

Sonia Garcia
Farm Sales Associate

Hope Gundlah
Executive Support Administrative Assistant

Shenika Jackson
Case Management Coordinator

Ezra Lee
Farm and Program Coordinator

Stephen McCary
Farm and Program Associate

Devin Middleton
Corporate and Foundation Coordinator

Megan Morrison
Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Amelia Nawn
Program Operations Coordinator

Ursula Phillips-Levi
Program and Alumni Engagement Associate

Jaclyn Santi
Employment Training Coordinator

Shani Settles
Director of Operations

Anna Sumska
Farm and Program Assistant

Audia Wells
HR Consultant

Zenobia Williams
Employment Training Director

Board of Directors

Lynn Sheck
Board President
Finicity, Senior Vice President

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

Stewart Weiss
Board Vice President
Elrod Friedman LLP, Founding Partner

Steve Stanley
Board Secretary
Pastor and Community Organizer

Shawn Boone
Board Treasurer
PNC Bank, AVP Branch Manager

Judith Aronson, PhD

Jennifer Ballard Croft
Cook County State’s Attorney, Chief of Staff & Chief Diversity Officer

Chasity Boyce
Heitman, Vice President, Head of Diversity and

Foster Dale
Foster Dale Architects, Inc.,  Principal

Stephen Gates
Accenture, Senior Manager, Midwest SAP Program Delivery

Dan Kaplan
American Library Association, Marketing Manager

Pascale Kichler
DePaul University, Lecturer, French Department

Micheál Newman-Brooks

Kevin Swan
United Senior Services, General Manager

Toni Thompson
U.S. Bank, Vice President

Laura Tilly
Attorney, Retired

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

Associate Board

Mackenzie Canfield
Board co-chair
Inspiration Corporation, Employment Preparation & Placement Specialist

Emily Steinhauer
Board co-chair
Top Box Foods, Delivery Coordinator

Rashanah Baldwin
Journalist & Multimedia Consultant. Baldwin Media Group.

Mark Bourdenko
The Chartis Group, Consultant

Charlotte Cottier
Campbell & Company, Nonprofit Communications Consultant

Dillon Flynn
Invenergy, Control Room Operator

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

Larissa Mariano
Chicago Community Trust, Executive Assistant

Martina Oroz
Senior Consulting Analyst, Accenture

Olivia Rath
Deloitte, Consultant

Liz Rosenthal
DigitasLBi, Project Manager

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

Ashima Talwar
Sperling & Slater, P.C., Attorney

Katharine Uhrich
The Field Museum, Social Media Manager

Leadership Council

Diana Leifer

Amy Rynell

Anton Seals Jr.

Barbara Wallace

Betsy Gates-Alford

Carolyn Zehrer

Colleen Sheehan

Deborah Bennett

Erika Allen

Ivan Handler

Lauren Rosenthal

Lauri Alpern

Lisa Leib

Nicole Wagner

Orrin Williams

Perry Gunn

Philip Hong

Sebastian White

Travis Moyer