The heavy rains Missouri has experienced this spring and summer have not been kind to farmers trying to plant crops, or to the folks trying to pour concrete at the site of the new MU Health Agriculture Park in Columbia, Missouri, which will be the new home of the Columbia Farmers Market. But alas, the skies have cleared long enough for work to be done, and the long-awaited grand opening of the market is finally on the horizon. This weekend, the first Columbia Farmers Market will be held under the cover of the green canopy at 1769 W. Ash St. in Columbia.
The market has been operating out of the Parkade Plaza on Business Loop since it opened for the season in March, but the move has been highly anticipated by organizers, vendors and shoppers, who will have more shelter from the elements at the new location. The grand opening comes as market favorites such as sweet corn, blueberries, tomatoes and zucchini are all coming into season, filling the stalls with color and flavor.
After years of dreaming, planning and construction, the market is gearing up to open the new MU Health Agriculture Park.
Although it's called the “grand opening”, this weekend’s market will function more like a soft opening, says CFM executive director Corrina Smith. She encourages patrons to come back on July 13, when the park dedication ceremony will take place. Columbia mayor Brian Treece, along with Columbia Parks and Rec director Mike Griggs and MU Health Care CEO Jonathan Curtright will all speak, and there will be giveaways following the ribbon-cutting ceremony. But this, Smith says, is just the beginning. “We’re really just scraping the tip of the iceberg,” she says. “I’m looking forward to seeing how this park continues to grow and develop over the next few years.”
And those involved with CFM are looking forward to helping those around Columbia grow in a healthy way, too. Shopping at the market supports local agriculture; all producers’ farms must be within contiguous counties, or a 50-mile radius of the Columbia Farmers Market. “About 15 cents on the dollar goes back to producers when you buy something at the grocery store,” Smith says. “The entire profit goes back when you buy it at the market.”
That's especially important this season, when so many Missouri farmers have faced massive crop loss due to flooding or heavily saturated fields. “Our main sweet corn producer, The Boys from Chamois, were lucky that their first two plantings survived the flooding, but the third planting was completely gone,” Smith says. “That’s a huge loss –1/3 of a year’s profits.” But what’s just as important as supporting local producers financially is bridging the gap between them and their consumers. The education piece of the park, which will involve weekly gardening and agricultural workshops for kids, is a central element to the new space. “We see this all the time – kids just don’t know where there food is coming from,” Smith says. “There’s such a disconnect. We hope to help make those connections, and increase eating of healthy food and veggies.”
Join the celebration on July 6, 13 and every following Saturday at Columbia’s Agriculture Park on Ash Street in Columbia to learn and shop. If you can’t make it on the weekend, the market is also open on Tuesdays from 10am to 1pm and Thursdays from 3 to 6pm.
Columbia Farmers Market, 1769 W. Ash St., Columbia, Missouri, columbiafarmersmarket.org