COLUMBIA — The Columbia Farmers Market began construction of one of two new wing additions to its main pavilion, which will bring its total capacity for vendors to 98 stalls.
The Clary-Shy Community Park Phase II Improvements consist of $1.6 million in funding, $1.28 million of which comes from a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. The remaining $320,000 comes from tax credits from the Missouri Development Finance Board.
Columbia Farmers Market director Corrina Smith said it’s the next step in growing the farmers market’s role as “an important asset to the community.”
“The completion of the MU Healthcare Pavilion is 30 years, 40 years in the making,” Smith said. “There are so many people have contributed to our success and where we are today, and finally seeing this come to completion is really special for Columbia, for our vendors. We have some vendors that have been selling here since the 80s, and they’re the ones who’ve really seen the transition of the market.”
Smith said once construction of the west wing is completed, the market will temporarily shift its center toward the west to allow for construction of the east wing. She said it will take about six to eight weeks to finish both wings.
“It was always the plan to build this pavilion in phases,” Smith said. “As we raised the money, we were going to construct it.”
Although there won’t be any initial changes, Smith said customers can look at the interactive map each Saturday for updated vendor locations as construction progresses. She also recommended asking market on-site ambassadors for help and following the market’s newsletter for other updates.
Crews finished building the current pavilion in July 2019. Smith said she and her staff hope to construct a community welcome center as part of further expansion to the agriculture park.
Build This Town is seeking public and private funding for the 11,000 square-feet welcome center that would include a commercial kitchen, offices, an activity room, a resource room and other amenities to “provide a solid foundation for hunger relief and health-focused programming that empowers people across our community to feed their families healthy food.”
The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, a primary partner of the Columbia Farmers Market, operates its primary maintenance farm on the same lot as the farmers market. Smith said she’s proud of the work the organization is doing to educate community members about the benefits of growing personal produce.
“They’re all about teaching people how to feed themselves, how to grow their own food, and so they have some new programming that’s in the works that we’ll be helping out on a local level,” Smith said.
Smith said the goal of her staff and partner organizations is to ensure that “our farmers are successful” at the market, which in turn provides the community with healthy, nutritious foods.
“We also have plans to, especially once the welcome center is finished and we can actually be working here on-site, to come up with programming on business training and opportunities for producers to help them be successful.”
Smith said she hopes that these programs can help with difficulties in establishing a farming career, as land and equipment acquisitions are large-scale barriers to entry.