Columbia Farmers' Market Bus Draws Larger Crowd

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COLUMBIA - More Columbia residents took advantage of the new Farmers' Market bus on Saturday. Launched April 7, the new route runs from the the University of Missouri campus north to Wilks Boulevard and then heads west to the market before circling back. Partially funded by a $41,791 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the service caters to portions of central Columbia labeled as a "food desert".

"Our market has been at this location for a very long time," said the Farmers' Market Director Caroline Todd. "So we wanted to make it accessible to families that lived in the food desert."

The USDA uses the term "food desert" for for areas with a high number of people below the povery line who live more than a mile from a full-service grower and have no transportation of their own. Fares are the same as normal bus routes, but the Farmers' Market route begins running earlier than others. 

"I had nothing to do this morning, so I got up and checked out the Farmers' Market," bus rider Craig Fasel said. 

Fasel was the only one onboard, but the numbers told a different story.

"I've got almost 23 people today, that's quite an improvement," Columbia Transit bus driver Steve Clark said. "This weekend has been the best weekend so far. We've improved a hundred percent, a thousand percent. Last weekend, I had one person."

Todd said she's been promoting the service through the Farmers' Market website, the City of Columbia's website, and through flyers passed out on Earth Day. 

"We know from experience that a new procedure operation has to happen five times before it's really catching on," Todd said. "Word of mouth is an important form of advertising at a Farmer's market."

The bus route starts at 7:45 a.m. and its last drop-off is at 12:15 p.m. It runs every Saturday through Oct. 27.

"In the future, we feel that there will be more residents that ride the bus," Todd said.