Columbia set to break ground on first phase of agriculture park

Groundbreaking on a new agriculture park in Columbia is scheduled to take place Saturday, marking a major milepost for a project that organizers say will provide mid-Missouri residents easier access to local fruits and vegetables and encourage them to engage in outdoor physical activity.

Once completed, the agriculture park is expected to include a roofed structure for farmers market vendors, an outdoor classroom for after-school programs, a garden and orchard, a multipurpose building and walking trails. The project’s first phase, approved Nov. 6 by the Columbia City Council, involves construction of the farmers market pavilion, which will accommodate 40 vendors year-round.

Plans call for the park to be built in three phases by 2020, at a cost of about $8 million. Build This Town, a campaign on behalf of the project, has already raised $2.5 million, according to Adam Saunders, the campaign’s director.

The Columbia City Council accepted a $700,000 grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health for the project in August, the Columbia Missourian reported. Saunders said MU Health contributed $495,000 to the project and will get naming rights to the pavilion.

The park has been spearheaded by Friends of the Farm, a joint effort between the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Columbia Farmers Market, Sustainable Farms and Communities, and Columbia Parks and Recreation.

“This iteration is about two and a half years in the making,” Saunders said, “but the idea of a permanent farmers market home is over 15 years in the making, and growing food in the city has been a thing forever.”

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