Urban agriculture bridges the gap between consumer and producer

A simple compost project at the University of Missouri grew into 1.3 acres of urban farm land, 17,000 pounds of food donated to families in need last year , and a community connectedness to agriculture through education, outreach and volunteerism.

The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture is at the forefront of an agriculture movement hitting Columbia. Its efforts range from farmers markets to educational activities, to teaching people how to garden, and unveiling a new Agriculture Park in March. Employees and volunteers at CCUA work day-in and day-out to bring people good food.

“Everybody eats, we all have that in common,” said Adam Saunders, development director for Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and campaign manager for Build This Town: Agriculture Park. “We work with farmers whether we know it or not. By growing food in the city or growing food that you eat through gardening, we build basic literacy and appreciation for agriculture.”

Not only is the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture at the forefront of an urban ag movement, they are practicing sustainability within their farm as well. Mary Hendrickson, associate professor of Rural Sociology, explains sustainable agriculture as ecologically sound in its practices and focused on benefitting both the community and the economy.

The future for urban agriculture is expanding for Columbia. More than $3.7 million have been raised — evidence of strong community support for the Columbia Agriculture Park, which will be open in March. This agriculture park will contain everything from a farmers market, playground, greenhouse, and more.

“As we move to the ag park, we will have three times the space to grow,” Saunders said. “That means more food taken to the food pantry, more opportunities for people to volunteer and more education about the agricultural industry through hands-on service learning.”

This expansion that the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture will be seeing here soon will aid agricultural transparency in Columbia. It will not only provide an abundance of nutritious food, but it will also connect consumers directly to their food producers.

However, CCUA has a long history of teaching youth in Columbia about their food. Brandelyn Martin, teaching assistant and graduate student in Agricultural Education, explained the importance of urban agriculture and transparency.

“I think whenever we talk about agriculture in urban areas, a lot of the misconceptions come from not seeing what agriculture is or how it’s happening,” Martin said. “A lot of time in urban areas there is a misconception that your food comes from the grocery store because that’s where they see it. If we start to increase agriculture in urban areas through community gardens or tower gardens, and consumers can see that process it makes agriculture more clear.”

The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture continues to improve agriculture literacy in the Columbia community through gardening workshops, after school programs and educational efforts related to the upcoming Ag Park. For more information on the Build this Town Campaign, or the Columbia Center for Urban Ag visit https://columbiaurbanag.org/.