URBAN GROWERS COLLECTIVE DIRECTOR OF FARMING AWARDED RECOGNITION AS A 2024 LEADER FOR A NEW CHICAGO

Malcolm Evans, Director of Farming at Urban Growers Collective, has been
urban farming since he was young. He became interested in urban agriculture
farming when he met Urban Growers Collective Founder and CEO Arika Allen.
PHOTO PROVIDED BY MYWHY AGENCY.
Malcolm Evans, Director of Farming at Urban Growers Collective, has been urban farming since he was young. He became interested in urban agriculture farming when he met Urban Growers Collective Founder and CEO Arika Allen. PHOTO PROVIDED BY MYWHY AGENCY.

URBAN GROWERS COLLECTIVE DIRECTOR OF FARMING AWARDED RECOGNITION AS A 2024 LEADER FOR A NEW CHICAGO

By Tia Carol Jones

Malcolm Evans came to urban agriculture farming as a curious nine-year-old and is now the Director of Farming for the organization that he has been part of for 22 years, the Urban Growers Collective.

The Urban Growers Collective was founded in 2017 and builds upon the work of Will Allen and

Growing Power, which was founded in 1993. The mission of the Black-led, woman-led nonprofit

farm is to cultivate nourishing environments which support health, healing, economic development and creativity through urban agriculture.

Evans credits Erika Allen, Founder and CEO of Urban Growers Collective, with his interest in urban agriculture farming. The community garden became a safe haven for him and he went there every day. He said he felt welcome there and it felt like home. Allen took him under her wing and taught him about farming and food, even taking him to Milwaukee so that he could learn more about farming. By the time he was 12 or 13 years old he decided he wanted to be a farmer.

“I felt like I kept coming to the garden, kept on learning and observing, talking to my family

about vegetables and building a career for myself in something that I call home,” he said.

Evans is one of 10 leaders from organizations across the city of Chicago who have been chosen for the 2024 Leaders for a New Chicago Award. The Leaders for a New Chicago award was established in 2019 by the Field Foundation of Illinois, in partnership with The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The goal of the award is to build a more inclusive city. The award recipients receive $25,000 and their organizations receive a $25,000 general operating grant.

For Evans, Urban Growers Collective and the work it is doing is changing people’s lives. While the participants are farming and learning about food, they’re also using the work to heal from trauma. He has seen people start out learning how to grow food, learn to love it and in the process, their lives are being changed.

“I’m working with more folks who have stories like mine and are looking for a second chance and been in some of the programs that have been around since we were young and now seeing the pathways that I took and that helped me, now they’re coming on board and understanding foodways. They’re thugging out the trauma by learning about vegetables and understanding that food is medicine, but food is also a human right,” he said.

Evans said that having leaders in his community that helped him deal with things that he was going through as a young person helped him open up to love farming. Before becoming a part of the urban agriculture farming community, he didn’t understand where produce came from and the history of Black people farming down South. Now that he understands that, he sees the change and impact it had on his life.

Evans wants to see more people get involved with urban farming and believes it can change the world. In order for it to work, he said, people have to keep doing the work. He added that mentorship is very important and strong community leaders really do make a difference.

“I’m just so honored to be recognized and to receive the (Leaders for a New Chicago) award. It’s going to have folks look at my leadership differently. Receiving the grant, for us, it will help support more folks in the workforce and let us help more folks that are dealing with trauma who want to do this type of work,” he said.


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