Seeds, Soil & Culture/Urban Growers – Green Era

Seeds, Soil & Culture helps Urban Growers Collective invest in Green Era Sustainability LLC of Chicago, to benefit the local community through UGC’s equity ownership of the waste-food-to-energy project they helped develop.

Erika Allen, CEO and Director of Operations at Urban Growers Collective in Chicago, says helping people thrive is the emphasis and the motivation for UGC’s work of tackling food security. 

Co-Founded in 2017 by Ms. Allen and Laurell Sims, CEO Finance, UGC operates 

  • Eight Urban Farms on 11 acres of land on Chicago’s south side
  • the Fresh Moves Mobile Market (a “produce aisle on wheels” that stops at community sites to provide fresh produce, value added products, and pantry and household staples from local and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Producers ) 
  • Youth Crops a job readiness and education program for teens that provides hands-on experience in the food system using an inquiry based STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) framework a job-readiness program for teens 
  • Job training program in urban agriculture and landscaping for formerly incarcerated adults and adults at high risk of gun-violence involvement
  • Farmers for Chicago Farmer Incubator program with a focus on building agency for BIPOC growers and food entrepreneurs
  • a head-start preschool farm – providing hands in the soil and food and nature reconnections for both parents and their children
  • Agriculture, small business development, and equality building workshops Workshops to provide education to a larger audience 

One of their projects, Green Era Chicago, is the development of the Renewable Energy and Urban Farm Campus on the Southside of Chicago, in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. A portion of the Pritzker-Traubert Foundation’s 2020 Chicago Prize award has been invested as Class B Equity by the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, which has been leveraging its relationships among the community to develop and connect the assets to the community led Quality of Life development plan. The Healthy Hub was also awarded a portion of the Chicago Prize and  will establish  the first full service medical clinic and wrap around wellness services in 40 years.

This campus, pictured below, will recycle inedible food waste to produce clean, renewable energy and nutrient-rich soil, which will be used as a critically needed input in the expansion of fresh local food production. The end result will have positive social and environmental impacts, while also creating jobs, sustainable neighborhoods and healthier lifestyles.   

Green Era Chicago

In reviewing Green Era Sustainability LLC as a potential investment, it became apparent that this $36M  project would provide excellent financial returns for the equity stakeholders. However, those whose inspiration, dedicated efforts and expertise, as well as long-term advocacy had gone into the development of this project would likely not have the resources to capture the opportunity of ownership – and therefore the community would not reap the same financial benefits offered to investors. 

In service to its mission of supporting the transformation of local and regional food systems while shining light on the knowledge, values, and leadership that inspire the practice of agroecology worldwide, Seeds, Soil & Culture Fund made a grant to UGC to purchase equity in the project it had developed. 

We have always seen challenges within the food system as opportunities to transform how people can work together to both repair our communities and provide living-wage opportunities for healthier environments. This project represents an opportunity to provide consistent revenue sources to organizations that are rooted in our environmental responsibility to the people, the natural world and society to create a sustainable and equitable economy that can act as a blueprint for climate resilience. This investment is a manifestation of the shift in how and with whom our resources- financial, social and otherwise- are invested. Without support from the fund, Urban Growers Collective would not have a stake in ownership, and GAGDC would not be the majority Class B equity owner in this first model. 

Urban Growers Collective will be fundraising for the capital build of its education and training center and related growing infrastructure. Urban Growers Collective is also in the final raise toward this matching grant. For more info on this current investment opportunity in Green Era Sustainability LLC click here.

To support this project, please contact Erika Allen and use this link or contact Brandon Lov, Development Associate for general or other program specific support. 

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