Columbia Farmers Market Corrina Smith

Columbia Farmers Market executive director Corrina Smith.

Spending a Saturday morning at the Columbia Farmers Market is a summertime staple in Columbia, Missouri. Here, farmers and vendors come from within a 50-mile radius for a truly local and bountiful selection of fresh goods.

After years of dreaming, planning and construction, the market is gearing up for its best summer yet with the opening of the new MU Health Agriculture Park and expanded weekday market hours. New digs for the market means new programming, including the What’s Cooking? chef cooking demonstration series and gardening workshops.

With so many local vendors to shop and new programs to participate in, we caught up with market executive director Corrina Smith to learn more.

Tell us about the new What’s Cooking? series. Through our annual farm-to-table dinner, we slowly started building these relationships with chefs, and we wanted to highlight what they’re doing with our vendors’ products. We scheduled a different chef every month for the demonstration series, which runs the last Saturday of the month from March through October. Chefs use market products, so what they’re cooking will be seasonal. A couple weeks out, the chef comes to the market. We’ll walk around, talk to vendors and throw some ideas around. Ultimately, we’re wanting to expose customers to new, different foods and have them step out of their comfort zones, buy those products, take them home and cook with them themselves.

The new MU Health Agriculture Park opened early in the market season. What can visitors expect from the first phase of the new pavilion? The first phase is the market pavilion, which is the center third of the building. We’ll have about 40 covered stalls, but there will [eventually] be a total of 98 stalls. There will be bathrooms and ample amounts of electricity for our vendors and storage for the market. The urban farm will start to build out this year, and we’ll do beautification of the park. As soon as construction of the pavilion is done, the contractors will build out the barn and greenhouse for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture. At heart, it’s the same market, but we’ll be under this roof and protected from both rain and the hot sun. The only thing that will change is more opportunity to shop: We’re adding weekday market [hours]. And we’ll be in the same location year-around; our winter market will be held in the pavilion because it has drop-down vinyl walls.

What other exciting things can we anticipate at the market this season? We’ve added gardening workshops every Saturday this year through the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture. We’re adding children’s activities to our weekday markets. On July 13, we’ll dedicate the Agriculture Park with a special event. In late July, we’ll hold our annual farm-to-table fundraiser dinner, which ties with our chef demos. Late July and early August is prime farmers’ market produce time. When people think farmers’ market, they think field-red tomatoes, watermelon, sweet corn, cucumbers and zucchini. All that will be popping at that time of the year.

Editor's Note: The address listed here is for the new MU Health Agriculture Park. At press time, the market was still operating at 601 Business Loop 70 W pending completion of construction.

Columbia Farmers Market, 1769 W. Ash St., Columbia, Missouri,

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