Profile: Columbia Farmers Market + Columbia’s Agriculture Park
Posted On: August 4, 2021
Throughout National #FarmersMarketWeek we’re highlighting a few standout local food systems organizations that we’ve found inspiring over the past year. Next up, the Columbia Farmers Market!
Mission: The mission of the Columbia Farmers Market is to provide both the local farmer and consumer a reliable, regulated marketplace for the direct exchange of high quality and safe food. By facilitating such commerce the market strives to meet the needs of the local consumer while encouraging sustainable agriculture in mid-Missouri. Ag Park’s mission: To build a beloved Agriculture Park, creating a healthier, more vibrant community.
Programming detail: Columbia Farmers Market (CFM) is a producer-only organization drawing its farmer-members from a 50-mile radius of Columbia, Missouri. Being a producer-only market means all products sold at the market must be grown, raised, or produced by the seller, this ensures high quality products and passionate vendors. Open since 1980, CFM has experienced remarkable growth over its 40 years, and especially in the past 10 years. CFM has operated in the same parking lot in central Columbia since 1980 and prior to 2019, the market operated outdoors April –October and relocated to an indoor shopping mall for the winter months. Now with two fulltime employees, an engaged Board of Directors, and 10 part-time employees, the market is able to offer a wide range of programming for its customers and a robust sales outlet for its beginning farmers and entrepreneurs. CFM has even been recognized nationally, being awarded by Clean Eating Magazine as “America’s Top 50 Best Farmers Markets” in 2015 and 2017; and locally in Feast Magazine’s “Feast 50 Awards: Columbia” as the Best Farmers Market in 2020, 2019, 2018, and as Runner Up in 2015. Because of the markets commitment to provide locally produced, highly quality goods, the market was awarded the Mayor’s Climate Protection Award for Environmental Stewardship in 2020.
Program history and community reach: In response to a neighborhood planning process, a public-private partnership was launched in 2015 between Columbia Farmers Market, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Sustainable Farms & Communities, and City of Columbia Parks and Recreation to fundraise for and build Columbia’s Agriculture Park. Extensive research and community engagement have occurred since 2015 to develop Columbia’s Agriculture Park so that it meets community needs and accommodates market demand. Through this planning process, the 10-acre park was visioned to be a hub for local food sales, education, and demonstrations. A key feature of this park is the 98-vendor four-season farmers market pavilion. In 2019, the first phase of the farmers market pavilion opened, which included a large concrete pad to accommodate 98 vendor booths and a four-season pavilion that covers 40 of those booths, allowing for year-round sales at this location. Since the completion of the first phase, despite the impacts of COVID-19, farmers have reported increased sales. Other features of the park include a 3-acre Urban Farm that supplies the local food pantry, multiple outdoor education areas to deliver hands-on learning for all ages, and outdoor recreation features. $1 million was recently raised to finish the market pavilion, so that all 98 booths are under cover and available for year-round sales. To date $5.5 million has been raised from public and private sources for park improvements.
- 109,304 customers visited CFM in 2019
- 56% increase compared to 2018, 72% increase since moving to Columbia’s Agriculture Park
- $2,213,825 estimated vendor sales in 2019 (39% increase from 2018)
- $2,208,260 estimated vendor sales in 2020, despite the pandemic and occupancy limits
- $69,620 SNAP & matching funds dispensed in 2020