Columbia Farmers' Market to remain at ARC on annual lease

Monday, February 18, 2013 | 7:55 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — The city plans to continue a lease for the Columbia Farmers' Market and Sustainable Farms and Communities, while farmers market supporters continue efforts to build a permanent pavilion.

The farmers market is held on 2.3 acres outside the Activity and Recreation Center. The lease from 2009 ends April 8 and was contingent on construction of a permanent pavilion. The long-term lease allowed Sustainable Farmers and Communities to qualify for federal stimulus funds in 2009, which it did not receive.

The farmers market has gathered in Shy-Clary Park at Ash and Clinkscales streets since 1995.

With no firm plans in place for construction, the city has decided to renew the $2,100-per-year lease with Sustainable Farms and Communities, which operates the farmers market, one year at a time.

The new agreement was on the council's consent agenda Monday night.

“We’re still planning, or rather replanning," said Kenneth Pigg, Sustainable Farms and Communities chair. "We’re replanning the facility to get more input on what kind of facility it needs to be. We’re talking to vendors and people in the community.”

Mike Hood, Parks and Recreation director, said he doesn't foresee an end to the city-market relationship because it is an asset to the community.

"It’s a partnership we’ve had for a long time, and I see that partnership continuing whether or not there’s ever a permanent structure built," Hood said. "I think it’s certainly a question that needs to be resolved."

A disagreement among members about the cost of the pavilion as well as a growing need for a permanent winter market caused the old plan to be reconsidered, Pigg said.

“We’re not really into the big-time fundraising yet because we don’t have funds for what a different kind of facility would cost,” he said.

Sustainable Farms and Communities hopes to renew the annual lease until decisions are made on changes to the structure and financing. The city doesn’t seem to want to create another multiyear lease until the farmers market has a structure under construction, Pigg said.

“This winter we talked with the farmers market and the Sustainable Farms and Communities and decided we would go back to the annual agreement for at least this year or the next two years until agreement is reached on the goals for a permanent facility,” Hood said.

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