Columbia dedicates new home of farmer's market
COLUMBIA - Community leaders and project sponsors cut the ribbon off the MU Health Care Pavilion at Columbia's Agriculture Park Saturday morning.
The pavilion is the new, permanent home of the Columbia Farmer's Market. It's located inside Columbia's new Agriculture Park on West Ash Street.
Mayor Brian Treece said the location has a long history of supporting local farmers.
"This was the original location of the Boone County fair," Treece said. "It all started right here when it comes to agriculture and showcasing the produce of Boone County farmers."
He said the pavilion makes Columbia stand out from other cities similar in size.
"Fast forward a hundred years and here we are with one of these first class amenities you typically only find in larger cities," Treece said. "Cities like Seattle with Pike Place Market that goes on for aisles and aisles with food and flowers and produce. Or Dallas that has taken an old building and refurbished it into something that's producing income."
The new pavilion will allow the farmer's market to stay open year-round. Large fans provide cool air for hot summer days. In the winter, heaters and temporary walls will keep the pavilion warm.
Verna Laboy, a Health Educator with Columbia-Boone County Department of Health and Human Services, said the pavilion will not only a place for farmers to showcase their crops. It will also serve as a center for health education.
"There are going to be cooking classes here, there's going to be demonstrations here, composting. Every aspect aspect of growing healthy food, " Laboy said. "We're increasing health literacy in the community."
She said the pavilion's central location will make it accessible for those who may not otherwise have access to healthy options.
"It's on bus lines, people can get here," Laboy said. "People with limited incomes that qualify for government programs like WIC and SNAP benefits can double their dollars in receiving fresh produce."
Saturday's dedication marked the completion of the first phase of the project. A planned second phase would extend the pavilion to add more capacity for vendors. It would also have an event center and kitchen.