Groundbreaking for visitor education complex

Friday, May 9, 2008 | 7:21 p.m. CDT; updated 6:07 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, along with community leaders from Columbia schools and MU’s department of agriculture, drove golden shovels into the ground May 9, marking the site for the new Visitor Education Complex of Jefferson Farm & Gardens on New Haven Road.

The complex is sponsored by the Jefferson Institute, a nonprofit that promotes agriculture education and research in Missouri, and is meant to be a family-friendly resource for people to learn about the various aspects of agriculture and conservation.

“We’re working to develop something for all ages and backgrounds,” said Rob Myers, executive director for the Jefferson Institute. Myers said the education complex expects 30,000 visitors a year upon its completion in spring 2009.

“The country is failing to produce enough graduates in science and technology,” said Sara Torres, the health and science coordinator for Columbia Public Schools. “The Jefferson Farm & Gardens is a catalyst for kids to learn about agricultural practices and is a resource for the general public.”

The complex is expected to add economically to Columbia’s visitor appeal.

The $3.5 million complex, a cooperation among private companies, MU and federal funds, aims to bring the intricacies of the agriculture industry, as well as common gardening practices, together in one location for residents.

“Agriculture pays a critical role in our lives,” Bond said. “We need to create a new appreciation for farmers’ contributions to the welfare of all citizens.”

The Visitor Education Complex will include an exhibit hall, classrooms, a greenhouse and plant science laboratories. It is expected to draw 10,000 schoolchildren annually and will have adult education programming as well.

The complex is scheduled to open in a year. The Jefferson Institute will hold open houses throughout 2008 for visitors to preview Jefferson Farm & Gardens. There will be a variety of family-friendly activities and tours of the complex July 19, Aug. 2 and Aug. 30. For more information, go to

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