Urban Agriculture Production Assistant in Chicago, IL

Gary Comer Youth Center

Job Description

Position Title: Urban Agriculture Production Assistant
Dept & Initiative: Urban Ag Department 11
Reports to: Urban Agriculture Production Manager
Status: Full Time Salaried Permanent
Schedule: M-F 9am-5pm

Gary Comer Youth Center: * Having opened its doors in June 2006, the state-of-the-art Gary Comer Youth Center (GCYC) offers positive extracurricular alternatives in a welcoming and safe environment. The mission is to provide the support for all of our youth to graduate from high school, prepared to pursue college and careers. Located on Chicago’s South Side, the Gary Comer Youth Center draws its primary membership from the youth residing on the South Side of Chicago with a focus on Grand Crossing residents. GCYC is the oldest and largest institution sitting on the Comer Education Campus which includes our organizational partners Gary Comer College Prep High School, the South Shore Drill Team and Gary Comer Middle School. For more information, please visit: www.garycomeryouthcenter.org.

Comer Education Campus: * With a comprehensive approach to education and youth development, the Comer Education Campus is devoted to guiding young people to and through college and into adult life. The campus constitutes a unique partnership between Gary Comer Youth Center, Gary Comer College Prep, Gary Comer Middle School, and the college success initiative UtmostU. The campus serves over 2,000 youth from across Chicago’s South Side, offering out-of-school time enrichment, academic enhancement, and college success programs. Working with best-in-class partner organizations, the Comer Education Campus empowers young people with the tools they need for post-secondary and life success. For more information, please visit: http://comereducationcampus.org/
Position Summary
The Urban Agriculture Production Assistant plays a key role in the dynamic urban agriculture programs based on the Comer Education Campus (CEC) on the South Side of Chicago. Reporting to the Urban Agriculture Production Manager, the Production Assistant supports a full range of planning, growing, distribution, training and educational activities on the Comer Education Campus, with a focus on social enterprises. The purpose of the social enterprise initiatives is to develop enduring improvements in areas as such as education, employment and health outcomes for diverse youth ages 13-24 and their communities. The Production Assistant assists the Production Manager in creating and scaling up social enterprises developed by and for youth to fulfill the GCYC mission. These opportunities are derived by leading a consistent team of adult staff, young adult interns, and teen participants on the day-to-day management of the CEC network of gardens, including an 8,600 square foot intensive rooftop garden, an environmental education garden, an indoor hydroponics operation, and a 1.75 acre urban farm with hoop houses, annual vegetables, perennials, fruit trees, and more.

Essential Functions and Responsibilities: *

  • Work both independently and with youth to lead urban agriculture tasks including plant propagation, site preparation/maintenance, planting/transplanting, weed management,

integrated pest and disease management, irrigation, harvesting, washing and packing, distribution, and food safety.

  • Assist the Production Manager and other Urban Agriculture staff in planning and leading production tasks with program participants.
  • Follow the annual crop plan to lead accurate and timely planting, seedling production, transplanting, and relevant record keeping.
  • Create a weekly product availability list and distribute to customers and other partners.
  • Coordinate orders including sales to offsite business partners, online orders, and orders from GCYC Culinary.
  • Lead harvest and processing, including the creation of harvest lists, following the food safety plan, and keeping records as directed by the Production Manager.
  • Help lead volunteers, groups, tours, workshops and demonstrations.



  • Responsible for maintaining a physically and emotionally safe environment to further ensure proper youth supervision and managing conduct issues and incidents.
  • Attends required staff meetings and trainings.
  • Works with other staff to execute effective outreach, recruitment and retention strategies.
  • Responsible for accurate data collection and data entry for grant and program compliance.
  • Supports the mission of GCYC.
  • Works collaboratively in a team setting serving the needs of youth.
  • Is committed to the safety and development of all GCYC members.
  • Takes on other duties as needed.
  • Serves as a role model for youth and community.
  • Abides by the employee handbook and established GCYC policies and procedures.

Two or more years of professional sustainable farming or related horticulture experience required.
Previous experience with youth agriculture or environmental programs, ideally with teens and young adults, strongly preferred.
Experience growing plants in high tunnels and greenhouses preferred.
Two or more years of supervisory experience in the field preferred.

Education & Skill Requirements*

  • Demonstrated ability to assist leadership of agricultural operations of comparable scale and methods required.
  • Bachelor’s degree or certifications in sustainable agriculture, horticulture, environmental studies or closely related field preferred.
  • Proper use of tools, equipment and materials.

Core Competencies*

  • Ability to lead and collaborate with internal and external professionals to provide continuous innovation that serves the GCYC mission.
  • Must possess genuine care and concern for youth – especially pre-teens and teens.
  • Program area management skills that are engaging, non-oppressive and age appropriate.
  • Strong project management and organizational skills. Must be able to initiate and finish projects.
  • Able to communicate effectively with youth, co-workers, stakeholders and families in a respectful and culturally competent manner via written and verbal communication.
  • Must enjoy working with teams but can also work independently.
  • Enjoys being the leader but is also confident enough to take directions from others.
  • Must be able to take initiative and problem solve. Must be a creative thinker.
  • Demonstrates strong accuracy in all areas of work.
  • Must possess adaptive vitality.
  • Demonstrates understanding of the positive youth development philosophy.
  • Demonstrates an understanding of guidance and discipline principles & conflict resolution strategies.
  • Must demonstrate cultural competency, dedication to working with youth, families and community members in our care.
  • Must have basic computer literacy skills – including Microsoft Office, independent use of the internet and ability to learn and properly utilize software systems.

Physical Work Requirements & Environment: *
The GCYC environment is consistently bustling with youth and community members. The Center’s work is fast paced and varied. Our work is done on site where our youth and families are. Therefore, it is required that team members meet these requirements:

  • Have the ability to lift up to 25 pounds.
  • Must be able to lift 40 pounds and work outdoors in all types of weather. During the growing seasons, up to 90 percent of the Urban Agriculture Production Assistant’s time will be spent working outdoors in the GCYC network of gardens.
  • The ability to use garden tools and equipment is needed.
  • Driver’s license required.
  • Schedule may also include some evenings, weekends, and Chicago Public Schools’ holidays, professional development days, and winter/spring/summer breaks.

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