Fall Gathering, Composting Ordinance, Dirt Doll Profile, & much more!
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Welcome to AUA's Fall Newsletter!

Dear friend, 

As we harvest that last batch of tomatoes and start putting our beds to bed (or keep them going a little while longer in cold frames and hoop houses!), Chicago's urban agriculture community has a lot to look forward to. AUA is working on a wide range of projects, campaigns, and events that will continue to grow our movement through the remainder of 2015 and into the new year. This includes next week's FALL GATHERING, the second one to feature results from recent local urban agriculture research that can be of practical use to Chicago's gardeners and farmers. Details are below – we hope to see you there! You are also encouraged to join our advocacy and organizing efforts by attending upcoming working group meetings. Most of the exciting policy, outreach and resource building work AUA does is fueled by its passionate volunteers – we can't do it without you!

In this edition of AUA's E-Newsletter you'll also find:
  • Exciting news about improvements to Chicago's Composting Ordinance
  • A close look at this issue's featured urban agriculture project, Dirt Doll
  • A creative recap of our most recent Movie & Mingle Night featuring the documentary The Symphony of the Soil, a talk by Lake Street Supply's Mark Moxley, and a tour of KAM Isaiah Israel's growing spaces
  • A report on our hugely successful Grown in Chicago: Summer Soiree & Showcase
  • The latest from our Working Groups, which have lots of progress to report on
  • And more!
Happy growing,

Billy Burdett
AUA Director


AUA's Fall Gathering: Cultivating Knowledge

Sharing Current Urban Ag Research Relevant to Your Garden or Farm

Please join AUA on Tuesday, November 10 from 6:00-9:00PM at Loyola University's Institute for Environmental Sustainability for our second annual showcase of current Chicago urban agriculture research, which will focus on practical information that gardeners and farmers in Chicago will find useful for growing food in the city. Researchers will give presentations on a wide range of topics, including:  

  • Dr. Bala Chaudhary, Loyola University - “Cultivating soil biology - lessons from Native American agriculture”
  • Kellen Marshall, UIC - “City Air and Urban Agriculture: Working towards understanding food systems in Chicago”
  • Sarah Hernandez, UIC - “Diversity in Chicago community gardens: Research and practice”
  • Dr. Howard Rosing, DePaul University - “The Chicago Harvest Study: Documenting the city-wide yield, distribution and nutritional value of food from community gardens”
Please also join us for the following activities: 
  • Community Slideshow - Show off your garden or farm! Send 1-3 photos and a brief description to by 11/9/15.
  • Community Potluck - Attendees are encouraged to bring a dish to share!
  • Tour of Loyola’s aquaponics lab

This event is free and open to the public! Volunteers are needed. Please contact us at We also encourage you to RSVP and invite your friends on Facebook

A New Day for Composting in Chicago
AUA helps to pass new Chicago Composting Ordinance amendments

After working with the Mayor’s office, the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC), the Chicago Food Policy Action Council (CFPAC), and many other stakeholders for more than two years, AUA is pleased to announce that composting in Chicago has made a big leap forward. Last August, the City Council passed amendments to Chicago’s composting ordinance that will finally allow community gardens and urban farms to accept and compost food scraps and other organic waste generated offsite. The amendments will also make it much easier for nonprofits to start community composting centers.

Under the previous composting ordinance, Chicago farms and community gardens weren’t permitted to take kitchen scraps or yard waste from their neighbors or accept larger quantities of organic waste from nearby businesses. Steep permitting fees made establishing and maintaining full-fledged composting facilities in the city almost impossible. As a result, the prospect of generating enough compost to meet the growing demand of Chicago’s gardeners and farmers was little more than a pipe dream, and city dwellers – especially those with little to no land – found themselves with limited options for keeping easily compostable materials out of the waste stream.

With the recent passage of Chicago’s new composting rules, these obstacles have largely been removed while still doing much to address legitimate concerns about odor and rodent problems. We look forward to seeing a growing number of community gardens and urban farms that are able to produce all of the compost they need, and we’re optimistic that our vision for a composting center in each Chicago neighborhood can be achieved over the coming years.

In the meantime, there is work to be done. AUA will continue collaborating with our organizational partners, the Department of Public Health, growers across the city, and other stakeholders to ensure that implementation of these new rules is smooth and successful. We’ll be holding meetings and events to collect feedback and educate people about what the new rules do and don’t allow – keep an eye out for announcements. For now, we hope that you’ll take a look at the overview and FAQ we’ve been developing. For a more detailed and technical look at the new rules, the actual ordinance can be viewed here.

Click here to listen to AUA Director Billy Burdett and IEC Executive Director Jen Walling discuss the new compost ordinance on WBEZ’s Morning Shift last August!

Project Profile: Dirt Doll

Dirt Doll is a Chicago-based urban farm business owned and operated by Audra Lewicki and Adrienne Detanico, specializing in heirloom veggies and flowers. In their two years of growing, the farmers have focused on selling their wares at farmers markets, through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)-style boxes, and to local independent food stores, restaurants, and co-ops.

Like most beginning farmers, the pair has had some highs and lows, but their excitement and positive attitude about the experience is inspiring. Audra explains, “Last year, in our first growing season, we had the brilliant idea to plant all of our lettuce at once. Then, it was ready all at once. And then, a hail storm hit. Now we understand the value of succession seeding.” When asked to share some advice for other urban farmers, their useful tidbit of advice is: “Don't be afraid to try peanuts. Don't be afraid to try growing anything! It's all a grand learning experience.”

Dirt Doll’s operation is currently located on 5000 square feet on the Legends Incubator Farm in Bronzeville managed by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest. According to the Chicago Botanic Garden, incubator farmers have access to tools and technical assistance in making their urban farms successful and profitable, from planting through wholesale and retail sales. Audra and Adrienne cite the incubator program as "a great way to experience the business side of urban farming, while having the support and camaraderie of other new urban farmers."

Since farms at the Legends Farm are limited to two years at the site, like so many other urban farmers, the women of Dirt Doll are now in need of future growing space. Despite land challenges, you can expect to continue to see Dirt Doll on the urban agriculture scene. As the farmers explain, "We know we want to continue to grow food for people and play in the dirt. Currently, we both hold other full-time jobs, but we would like to work towards making Dirt Doll a full-time, self-sustaining endeavor."   

As they explore options, be sure to stay apprised of the developments by liking them on Facebook. In the meantime, you can also find Dirt Doll’s products at the November and March indoor markets at the Glenwood Sunday Market

If you would like your project featured in AUA's Newsletter, write to us at

Help AUA Make a Difference!
Become a Member and Donate Today!

Becoming a member of AUA is free and easy! Signing up shows us and the world that you support AUA's Mission & Vision, which gives our coalition greater influence as we advocate for good urban agriculture policy (read the articles below for some examples!). 

Can't remember if you've already signed up as a member? Have new contact information? Play it safe and simply click here to fill out a few boxes – no need to worry about being counted twice! Remember, membership is separate from being subscribed to our Google Group or this E-Newsletter.

While membership is free, sustained financial support for AUA’s work is essential, so please take a moment donate today. Whether it’s helping to fund website maintenance, printed materials, event costs, payroll expenses for AUA's staff, or a new Civic Engagement Coordinator position that AUA hopes to add soon, your donation will go a long way towards increasing AUA’s impact. And for evidence of all the great work we do, this newsletter is a pretty good place to start! Plus, donations of $30 or more come with some great benefits – click here to learn more!

Bountiful Summer Soiree was a Blast!
by Christine Johnson

As the late afternoon heat of July shimmered on the parking lot pavement at 4-Star Green Certified Restaurant (and "Greenest Caterer in America") Big Delicious Planet (BDP), growers and local food supporters assembled tables and tents for AUA’s first annual Summer Soiree and Showcase. In the kitchen, BDP's chef and cooking staff were concocting a delicious Mediterranean-inspired dinner using ingredients from both their impressive urban farm and the Chicago gardens and farms setting up the "hyper-local" pop-up market – complete with produce, jarred goods, and even goat cheese – outside. But food wasn't to be the only offering at this evening market – local institutions and organizations like Fresh Taste and were also setting up shop in order to connect urban growers with much-needed funding for their projects. 

(Click here to view more photos from the event)

By the time attendees starting arriving, the afternoon heat had given way to a perfect summer evening breeze, the farm and garden stands were overflowing with abundance, and the sublime sounds of Chicago jazz virtuosos Jeff Greene, James Falzone, and Dan Bitney were kicking into gear. Local beers from Revolution and Lagunitas were tapped, Southwest Michigan wines were poured, and ebullient conversation flowed just as freely. We heard countless reports of new connections made between the 100-plus farmers, gardeners, local food lovers, and funders in attendance, paving the way for exciting projects and relationships that could take Chicago's urban agriculture and local food movement to the next level.

Soon it was time for our special Chicago-grown dinner, which was served buffet-style to rave reviews in BDP's beautiful urban farm. A lovely assortment of desserts donated generously by Bang Bang Pie and Whole Foods followed. 

Attendees also made their way over to the silent auction table, where prizes such as seeds and other growing supplies, admission to the Chicago Botanic Garden and Field Museum, local spirits, brew, and food packages, and the premier of the Fourneau Artisanal Home Bread Oven were bid upon. These donations, along with generous monetary sponsorships from institutions and businesses like Newgrange LLC, Triton College, and the Dill Pickle Food Co-op (see the full list below), helped make our first Summer Soiree and Showcase a hugely successful fundraiser, supporting AUA’s work in connecting, providing resources, and advocating for Chicago's urban agriculture community. 

As a volunteer for AUA, it was a joy to finally meet and put faces to names who are running successful projects, farms, and outreach for the cause we are crucially invested in. For those of us knee deep in tomatoes and peppers, it was a perfect evening to dust the dirt from our hands and take a break to make new connections and reconnect with those we hadn’t seen since the beginning of the season. I am so grateful to be part of a community that supports its growers and members with such enthusiasm and dedication! 

AUA Director Billy Burdett contributed to this article.

Thank you to all of our generous sponsors: 

Bang Bang Pie Shop
Big Delicious Planet
Chicago Botanic Garden's Windy City Harvest
CH Distillery
Chapman & Cutler LLP
The Dill Pickle
Domaine Berrien Cellars & Winery
Fresh Taste
Heirloom Landscapes
Irv & Shelly's Fresh Picks
Just Salad
Lagunitas Brewery
The Local Beet
Newgrange Development

Old Town Oil
The Organic Gardener
Organic Mechanics
Parce Rum
Revolution Brewery
Savory Spice Shop
Seeds of Change
Strand Design

Triton College Sustainable Horticulture Program
Whole Foods
Wine Goddess

A Tale of Two Organizations: 
Symphony of the Soil Movie & Mingle Night

by Robert Nevel

Robert Nevel is a member of the AUA Steering Committee, president of KAM Isaiah Israel, and founder of the congregation’s Food Justice and Sustainability Program. Here, he creatively reflects on AUA's most recent Movie & Mingle Night in the style of A Tale of Two Cities!
Recalled To Life

1. The Period 
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (not so), it was the evening of wisdom, it was the evening of (ale-fueled) foolishness, it was the evening of belief, it was the evening of incredulity, it was the evening of Light, it was the evening of Darkness (desirable when screening a film), it was the evening of hope, it was the evening of despair (no it wasn’t), we had everything before us (great company, food and drink, the screening of “Symphony of the Soil” and Mark Moxley’s scholarship), we had nothing before us (quite the opposite, actually), we were all going direct to tour KAMII’s urban micro-farm and food forest, listen to a talk about and then watch a film on soil, after which we were all going direct the other way - in short, the evening was so far like all the other wonderful AUA Movie and Mingle Nights, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. 

Such an evening it was which I recall to life here - the October 8, 2015 AUA Movie and Mingle Night at KAM Isaiah Israel. A tale of two organizations. AUA and KAMII. One secular, the other religious. Both focused on building a healthier, greener and more sustainable world, both guided by ethics and driven by social justice - justice for each other and for our planet. AUA and KAMII, working together to provide our shared community with the resources and connections which enable us all to continue the shared work of repairing the world.

Such an evening it was which I recall to life here - this autumnal Movie and Mingle Night, a beautiful and clement evening, forty plus growers and environmentalists in attendance, a tour, a learning session, an arresting and inspiring film, almost epic in a sort of Dickensian way, in the superlative degree one might say. 

(Apologies to Charles Dickens’ fans, heirs and scholars.)

Working Group Updates

Resources Working Group

The Resources Working Group continues to make strides with its three main projects: the Urban Agriculture Resource Guide, the Mapping Project, and AUA's website

AUA's Resource Guide is a truly collaborative effort and a constant work in progress. New Resource Guide submissions covering school gardening and vermicomposting from students in Howard Rosing's Community Food Systems course at DePaul are being finalized and reviewed by local urban ag experts, so keep an eye out. We'll be announcing Resource Guide work parties to get volunteers plugged into starting new sections and updating established ones in the coming weeks, and encourage you to join the effort! The full Working Group will also be meeting in November (see details below) to plan a revamp of the online Resource Guide, making it easier to use (and look at!). Finally, a new "Mini Resource Guide" will be up for grabs at events, starting with November 10's Fall Gathering.

The Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project (CUAMP) is another collaborative effort that continues to grow. With over 800 growing sites (and counting) inventoried, we and our partners at NeighborSpace and DePaul's Steans Center been thrilled by the volume of garden and farm submissions to the map and directory, and are in the midst of reviewing and approving them while working out a few minor glitches with the public submission tool. We've also been preparing for an expansion of the questionnaire and filter tools on the map while developing new partnerships with the City and Cook County Land Bank Authority: CUAMP will soon include a registration tool for community gardens and farms that wish to take advantage of new composting opportunities made possible by the compost ordinance AUA helped to develop and pass in August. We are also working to add a feature that allows people to find vacant land suitable for urban agriculture projects.

AUA's website continues to serve as a regularly updated source of helpful information, from job and volunteer opportunities to upcoming urban ag events and workshops to a wide array of local urban ag perspectives on our blog. If you are interested in contributing to the blog, we'd love to hear from you -- click here to get started!

AUA's Resources Working Group will be meeting from 5:30 to 7pm on Thursday, December 3, at Growing Home's Lincoln Park office (2732 N Clark). It is open to the public. If you are interested in helping to grow Chicago's urban agriculture movement by developing useful information and resources for local gardeners and farmers, this working group is for you!

Connections Working Group

AUA’s Connections Working Group has been diligently planning events, doing outreach to connect Chicago’s urban agriculture community, and working on projects to financially support AUA.

AUA has has a presence at interesting events this autumn. Thanks to all who stopped by our table to share info about your own growing site, seek advice on how to get involved in urban ag, and learn about AUA’s work at the Catholic Theological Union’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Convocation and Chicago Food Day

Events have been a strong focus for the Connections Working Group this fall. In addition to organizing the Movie & Mingle Night and Fall Gathering discussed above, we also held a Field Day in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago on September 27. Thanks to our partners at Xochiquetzal Peace Garden and El Paseo Community Garden, attendees we able to gain useful information on starting school gardens and how to extend their growing season. 

The Connections Working Group’s next project is putting together a donation drive to support AUA’s funding goals. If you have expertise in this area or an interest in contributing to this project (or future Connection Working Group activities), please contact us at We are always interested in gaining more volunteer support! Please join the Connections Google Group for the latest updates on meeting times and project plans! 

Advocacy Working Group

In addition to following up on the new Compost Ordinance amendments (see above), the Advocacy Working Group is working on a few exciting projects to establish favorable urban agriculture policies. 

Along with the Chicago Food Policy Action Council and the Food Chain Workers Alliance, AUA is working on a Good Food Procurement Policy (GFPP) for Chicago. If passed, the GFPP would direct the City of Chicago to follow a set of criteria for purchasing local, ethical, wholesome food for public facilities such as schools and hospitals. A similar policy has been successfully implemented in Los Angeles. 

The Advocacy Working Group is getting closer to finalizing a set of new definitions and rules that would fix Chicago's "weed ordinance" (click here for background info), preventing responsible vegetable gardeners and native landscapers from being fined for mistakenly identified weeds. A number of growers and other stakeholders across the city are currently adding their feedback. Once finalized, the proposed ordinance language will be brought to Alderman Joe Moore's office and other City government allies that have expressed interest in improving the law.

AUA is also continuing work with the Illinois Stewardship Alliance on its statewide seed library protection campaign which we asked members to vote on earlier this year. We are organizing a convening this month to get input from seed libraries and other noncommercial seed exchanges about developing new Illinois legislation for 2016. If you are involved with a seed library in IL that hasn't yet been invited to the convening, please contact Billy Burdett at For background information on this issue, please see this useful post from ISA.

Finally, the Advocacy Working Group has been working developing an urban agriculture ambassadors program. The goal of this project is to train a group of people to be knowledgeable representatives of the Chicago urban agriculture community who are effective in communicating with their representative on the City Council. We are planning a launch event in late January as a test run of the process and materials with an invited group of prospective Ambassadors. If you are interested in participating in this project, the next meeting will be held Thursday, November 12 from 6:00-7:30PM at the Chicago Innovation Exchange, 2nd Floor, 1452 E. 53rd St. Contact Martha Boyd at for more information.

Special thanks to Big Delicious Planet for their support of our Grown in Chicago: Summer Soiree & Showcase
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