Columbia Ag Park Holds Grand Opening
July 5, 2019
Written By Adam Buckallew
An overcast and foggy morning couldn’t dim the enthusiasm of thousands of shoppers who showed up at Clary-Shy Park on July 6 for the grand opening of Columbia’s new agriculture park.
Nearly 100 vendors offering farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, baked goods and flowers were present for the unveiling of the Columbia Farmers Market’s newly opened MU Health Care Pavilion, which restores shelter to the farmers market for the first time since 1992.
The new home for the farmers market and the ag park itself is the result of a public-private partnership that began in 2015 between Columbia Farmers Market, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Sustainable Farms & Communities and Columbia Parks and Recreation.
Construction on the first phase of the pavilion provides space for 98 vendor stalls (38 of which are sheltered) and includes public restroom facilities. A second phase of construction will eventually provide shelter for all vendor booths.
Adam Saunders, who led the fundraising for “Build This Town: Campaign for the Agriculture Park” and is development director at the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, is a self-proclaimed food enthusiast with a passion for increasing agronomical education in urban communities. He says the presence of the new ag park will support the growth and stability of mid-Missouri farmers and keep profits from local food production sales in the state.
“The market is a great way for farmers to capture a fair price on their goods without paying the fees of a middle man, and it also helps connect Missourians with the agricultural community,” Saunders says.
Funding for the project began with Columbia Parks and Recreation providing $400,000 along with a federal match of the same amount. Columbia-based businesses, trusts, foundations and other organizations contributed the rest of the money to make the park a reality. The MFA Oil Foundation partnered with the MFA Foundation, MFA Incorporated and Shelter Insurance to support the project.
Austin Stanton of Stanton Brothers Eggs has been coming to the Columbia Farmers Market since 2007. He says the construction of the pavilion should prevent rain from ruining a vendor’s day.
“In the past, if it rained, it really hurt our sales,” Stanton says. “It will be nice to have more shelter to keep customers dry while they are shopping.”
Beyond the market pavilion, the first phase of the ag park includes a farm-themed playground; a practice field; space for outdoor classrooms; an orchard; a barn and greenhouse for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture; new parking spaces; trails; and a pedestrian plaza.
Saunders expects the park’s first phase of developments to be completed by the end of the year. The second phase of the park’s construction will include building a 10,000-square-foot multipurpose building equipped with office space and a commercial kitchen, extending shelter to the full pavilion, and pouring concrete for additional parking spaces.
The Columbia Farmers Market is open every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to noon, on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 1701 W. Ash Street in Columbia.