New Farm to Table festival seeks funding from Columbia City Council

Sunday, March 14, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST

COLUMBIA — A new festival is trying to unite Missouri culinary experts with farmers and food producers from across the state — and it's asking the city for money.

Columbia City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to approve $15,000 to help fund the Farm to Table Festival at Monday's meeting.

The festival will feature cooking demos, a farmer's market and seminars about topics such as how to garden with a rain barrel, said John LaRocca, the festival organizer.

The events will use only products from Missouri, such as Schlafly beer and food from the Missouri Pork Producers Association.

"We see this as a state function," LaRocca said. "This is bigger than Columbia or  Boone County."

The Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau Advisory Board recommended the council approve the funding at a Feb. 22 meeting. Board members decide what events to fund by looking at their potential economic impact.

"There's a lot of potential for growth with this festival," said Lorah Steiner, tourism bureau executive director.

The money comes from a 4 percent tax on hotel visitors. A quarter of the tax — usually about $430,000 each year — is used for local festivals, Steiner said.

"The good thing about this fund is that it gives new festivals a place to grow," Steiner said. "It's brought activities and entertainment to those festivals that they otherwise wouldn't have."

The $15,000 would cover 7 percent of the festival's estimated costs. The money would be used to set up a tent for the farmer's market and for printing brochures.

The festival is scheduled for June 12 and 13 at the Carnahan Quadrangle at MU. LaRocca said ticket prices will be posted on the festival's Web site in the next week.

The council is also scheduled to vote on whether to approve funding for two other festivals — $12,000 for Art in the Park and $15,000 for the Wine and Food Festival.

Five open records were examined for this story: the March 15 city council meeting agenda, a report to city council by the tourism bureau and the three festivals' applications for tourism development funding.

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