Thursday, July 31, 2008

Farmers' Market Expansions

Columbia Farmers' Market has a huge project underway which will benefit not only producers who sell at their farmers' market, but also for all the citizens of Columbia and the surrounding area. While the new $1.8 million pavilion will be quite the investment, the Columbia Farmers' Market will benefit from this for many years to come.

Fundraising Begins for Market Pavilion

Sustainable Farms & Communities, a not-for-profit group formed to get a permanent pavilion for the Columbia Farmers Market, kicked off a fundraising campaign Saturday.

The goal is to raise money to pay for an all-weather multiuse facility at the city-owned market site near the Activity & Recreation Center. The projected cost of the structure is $1.8 million.

Dan Kuebler, chairman of Sustainable Farms & Communities, said about 2,000 people showed up Saturday evening for the "Imagine the Farmers Market Pavilion" party at the market site.

Farmers donated food for the event, and lights were set up to show the outline of the proposed structure.

Kuebler said Sustainable Farms & Communities has been working on the project for 10 years, but the current economic conditions - including high food and gas prices - have led to an increased interest in locally grown food, and a pavilion is needed to meet the rising demand at the farmers market.

Kuebler said more than 4,000 customers have attended the market each Saturday since May, and in past years those kinds of crowds would only occur a couple of times a year.

"This is the time and the moment to do it," he said of the pavilion.

Preliminary plans call for a pavilion with 86 covered stalls and 14 spots for traditional pop-up tents, as well as a 4,500-square-foot space that will house restroom facilities and an inspected kitchen area.

When the facility is not in use by the farmers market, it would be managed by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department and could be reserved by residents for events such as weddings and reunions.

Mike Hood, parks and recreation director, said the Columbia City Council approved a memorandum of understanding last year that said the Columbia Farmers Market would have two years to raise $900,000 and turn the money over to the city for construction, management and operation of the structure.

Kuebler said the group has raised more than $200,000 in donations, grants and pledges.

He said the campaign will focus on raising money from local residents, farmers and businesses as well as state and federal grants.

"It’s really going to be a local, a state and really a national fundraising campaign," Kuebler said.

While final plans for the structure depend on the success of the fundraising campaign, Hood said the city is working closely with the farmers market as they pursue the project.

"I think a permanent facility would be a significant addition to the community," Hood said.

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