COLUMBIA — Lovers of fresh produce who live on the south side of town might soon have a place in their backyard to get locally grown food.
Columbia Farmers' Market is hoping to open a new location in the parking lot of Forum Christian Church at 3900 Forum Blvd. Because the church is zoned for residential use, the market has requested a conditional use permit that would allow the market to operate. The request was filed with the Planning and Development Department last week.
Caroline Todd, the market manager, said she hopes the approval process will go quickly. Ultimately, the Columbia City Council would have to approve the request for the plans to move forward. Todd said it could open as soon as next month.
The idea of setting up a new place came from both customers and vendors, she said. The existing market is located on the corner of Clinkscales Road and Ash Street. Todd said more than 85 farmers currently sell at the market, and they've asked for more space.
Todd contacted the church in late February to ask if they would provide their parking lot as a location. The church agreed.
"We welcome the opportunity to have the farmers market at our church," Marlowe Schlegel, the church's director of operations, said. "It would give people more access to fresh local food. The purpose of our church is to connect people with Jesus. We feel it's important to connect with our community."
Schlegel said the parking lot could hold 15 to 20 vendors. Todd said most of the vendors would be new to the market.
The Missourian interviewed several residents living near the church. None of them said they were concerned about traffic increases from the business. Most said they would like to have the market closer.
Earl Bryant, who lives close to the church, said he would use the new market if it opens.
"It's completely on the other side of the city," Bryant said about the current location.
Mark Banks, who also lives nearby, said he went to the farmers market once a week last year and it will be convenient if there would be one at his neighborhood.
If plans are approved, the market would be open from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursdays. The current market is open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon and will open Wednesday evenings in May.