Columbia Farmers Market Pavilion Coverage Will Expand After Grant Award
The Columbia Farmers Market, in conjunction with Columbia Parks and Recreation, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, and Sustainable Farms and Communities as “Friends of the Farm,” applied for a grant last fall from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
The partners were seeking funds to expand the MU Health Care Pavilion, which houses the Columbia Farmers’ Market in Clary-Shy Community Park at 1769 W. Ash St.
Columbia Farmers Market and the city were notified this week — without warning — that they had received the $1.3 million grant.
“It takes a village to put together a proposal like this,” Corrina Smith, the market’s executive director, said of the grant application process starting in the fall. “We are so lucky to have so many amazing partners.”
Continued: Columbia Farmers Market is voted #1 in the nation
She sent out an announcement about the awarding of the grant to vendors on Wednesday morning. The market’s board learned of the funding on Tuesday.
“They’re all vendors, so they know how important it is, and they’re just as excited to see this project come to an end as they are to be able to bring everyone together under one roof,” Smith said.
Marketplace Chairman and Seller Dustin Stanton expressed genuine excitement about the announcement. His market stall is Stanton Brothers Eggs.
“It’s the realization of all the years and all the hard work that got us to where we are today,” Stanton said.
The grant is for expanding the pavilion, which opened in 2019, to the east and west.
The 98 registered sellers will be under this permanent structure by next spring. The pavilion currently houses 40 market vendors, while the remaining 58 have yet to bring pop-up tent covers, Smith said.
The grant was an 80-20 match, said Gabe Huffington, assistant director of parks and recreation, so about $320,000 of local funds through Friends of the Farm went into the project, making it an overall build of 1 $.6 million.
“We had three years of data to show the impacts of the Columbia Farmers Market and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture,” Huffington said. “As both groups started using the park, we were able to share that with (the Economic Development Administration).”
The grant was made possible by the U.S. bailout, and the expansion project was also aided by the planning efforts of the Mid-Missouri Regional Planning Commission, the Economic Development Administration said in its announcement. .
Advantages of the extension of the pavilion
The goal of having a permanent market pavilion dates back to at least 2000, Stanton said.
“It’s really exciting for me to see it all come to fruition,” he said.
There are direct financial impacts on providers who currently have pavilion coverage, Stanton said. On hotter days or in bad weather, consumers tend to stick to the covered central part of the market, he said.
“It will give everyone an equal opportunity and spread the revenue so everyone has a better uplift in sales,” Stanton said.
Extending permanent coverage will likely increase sales for salespeople, which means they can hire more people, Smith said.
The expansion strengthens the resilience of the regional food economy, the Economic Development Administration said.
He estimated the creation of 88 additional jobs.
“As we get more customers, (vendors) can increase production and then hire more people to work on their farms, in their kitchens, or at the market,” Smith said.
The pavilion expansion is a win for the area as vendors come to the farmers’ market within a 50-mile radius, organizers said.
“Vendors are primarily in rural communities, and even there it has an economic impact,” Stanton said.
Continued: Columbia Farmers Market vendors savor the continued return to normal
Building the pavilion coverage in phases, depending on authorized funding, has always been the plan, Smith said.
The clubhouse expansion is great for the community, added Huffington.
“When we started looking at this park and talking about this development of an agricultural park, our citizens were very supportive,” he said. “I thought it would take longer to develop the park, but when these kinds of rewards happen, it speeds up the process.”
Construction is expected to begin later this year
Construction is expected to begin in late fall and be completed early next spring. This delay will minimize disruption to the market, which operates year-round.
The number of vendors decreases in winter, which means that all vendors in the winter market can be covered under the heated central pavilion.
“Construction needs to start when we can move to a certain part of the space or we can all move inside for the winter market,” Smith said.
Parks and Rec worked with its architect over the past six to 12 months to ensure the plans were in place. Now begins the process to get the construction project approved by the Columbia City Council, Huffington said.
“Our goal will be to sign the deal with the Economic Development Administration, move forward with board approval, and then we’ll put that up for competition,” he said.
When the market pavilion project began more than five years ago, the goal was to have sufficient structural coverage for all vendors, Huffington said.
“Our initial phase one funding allowed us to do all the physical works, public works, and then build this central section of the pavilion,” he said.
When the parks sales tax was renewed in 2015, a portion of the revenue from that tax went toward the development of Clary-Shy Community Park, Huffington said. This led to the partnership the city has with the Farmers Market and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture to create this agriculture-focused park.
University of Missouri Health Care provided nearly $500,000 for the first phase of construction and secured naming rights to the pavilion, Huffington said.
2021 best year yet for Columbia Farmers Market
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 has been the best year for Columbia Farmers Market since its launch in 1980, Smith said.
“We were under COVID restrictions until May and still had our best year ever. Knowing that we can finish the pavilion is going to be a game changer,” she said.
More than 130,000 people visited the market in 2021.
That’s a 20% increase from 2019, Smith said. While visitor numbers were counted in 2020, they don’t show much compared to 2019 because of COVID-19, she said. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of visitors has increased by 95%.
“Take 2020 out of the equation because it was terrible for everyone,” Smith said. “Our suppliers sold just over $3.3 million in 2021.”
This is a 50% increase over 2019 and 2020 sales combined, she said.
Programs available through the Farmers Market
The Columbia Farmers Market offers a variety of programs aimed at putting food on the tables of all facets of the community.
This includes low-income individuals and families, seniors and children.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children) benefits are accepted at the Columbia Farmers Market. Market staff take Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards in exchange for tokens that these customers can use to obtain eligible items from market vendors.
“We’re also offering up to $60 in each market for SNAP and WIC recipients,” Smith said.
So if a person has $60 available on an EBT card, they walk away with $120 worth of food.
There’s a misconception about farmers’ markets that they’re only for those in a higher financial bracket, Smith said.
“There’s been a lot of study and comparison between foods sold in grocery stores and what’s in season on the market,” she said. “(What’s) on the market is generally comparable, if not cheaper.”
Other incentive programs include the Produce Prescription program, where local health centers can write a fruit and vegetable prescription for a low-income person to come buy at the market.
There’s also the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition program, which is a state-run voucher program, Smith said.
Children who complete the activities can also receive money to use at the market.
The market also partners with the Columbia Area Career Center’s Culinary Arts Program so that students receive funds to purchase produce.
Future market plans, other uses of the park
April 2 marks the spring/summer kickoff of the Farmer’s Market. The hours will increase, opening from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
“We will start to see our Spring/Summer vendors returning, in addition to all the Spring and Summer products that will be available,” Smith said.
The market is not limited to fruits and vegetables. There are a variety of meat vendors, as well as honey, dairy, baked goods, preserves, and more.
“Really, you can do all your shopping for the week at the market as long as you commit to eating seasonally and locally,” Smith said.
A mid-week market is scheduled to begin May 25 and run through September 14 from 3-7 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Farmers’ Market is once again partnering with Parks and Rec for its food truck roundup which was moved to the pavilion last year. Roundup events will take place during the midweek market on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month.
“We’re really excited about this partnership. We’ll have live music and kids’ activities. It’ll be a great place to dine and shop for all the errands people need,” Smith said. “It’s great for not so early risers.”
Clary-Shy Community Park is also used by the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture through a lease agreement, Huffington said.
Thanks to this agreement, the center has demonstration gardens and a school house. Other park facilities include a fitness trail and a playground. The Activity and Leisure Center is also located in the immediate vicinity of the park.
“We wanted to create a park that focused on healthy lifestyles and food resources,” Huffington said. “When people come to experience a farm park, they can see how things are grown and then shop at the farmers market.”
When there is no market, the pavilion can still be used by outside groups, he added. Extending the coverage of this outdoor space could lead to larger events at the pavilion on non-market days.
“We’ve seen through the pandemic that people who would normally have indoor events are reaching out to us about using this space because it’s more of an outdoor space,” Huffington said.
More people are also visiting the park to learn from the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, such as students from Columbia Public Schools, he said.