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FROM READERS: Harvest Hootenanny to celebrate conclusion of growing season

Friday, August 22, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Erin King works on public relations for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, where she is in her second year of volunteering.

Describe your organization or event.

The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture (CCUA) is an educational 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. CCUA teaches people how to grow their own food through its many programs at CCUA’s Urban Farm, in backyards and in the community. CCUA uses its 1.3-acre Urban Farm at 1209 Smith St. as its main educational site.

CCUA is celebrating the conclusion of its fifth growing season at the Urban Farm with its 5th Annual Harvest Hootenanny.

What is your relationship to the organization?

I am CCUA's Public Relations AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America). I am about halfway through my second year of service with CCUA, and this will be my second Hootenanny.

Please include details about the event or meeting.

The 5th Annual Harvest Hootenanny will be on Saturday, Oct. 4 from 3-8 p.m. The event will include a Missouri-raised meal, live music, games, a live auction and fun for the whole family. The event is a celebration of the year's successful growing season. Staff will be in attendance and guests will have a chance to tour the Urban Farm at their leisure. A suggested donation of $10 at the door includes the locally raised meal. Beer garden access is an additional $10. Rain date is Sunday, Oct. 5. For more details, or to sign up to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit www.columbiaurbanag.org/harvest-hootenanny.

Why did you choose to get involved with the organization?

It's kind of a funny story in how I even found myself working with the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture. I'm originally from Ohio, but had attended school in St. Louis. Upon graduation, I found myself like many other college graduates: unemployed, facing student loan debt, and moving back home to my parents' house.

In an effort to find meaningful work, and to be closer to my friends from college, I resolved to apply to AmeriCorps VISTA positions in Mid-Missouri. The only Public Relations and Graphic Design positions were tied to the Missouri Local Food Project sponsored by the Missouri River Communities Network (MRCN). I didn't have any experience with gardening, but the majority of the work was relevant to my college degree.

Though the road that led me to finding CCUA and Columbia originated through somewhat selfish motivations, once I gave in to spontaneity, I was met with the chance of a lifetime, and countless opportunities to learn and grow.

In the past year and a half, I have gained a lot of knowledge about gardening. But the learning didn't just stop at gardening. I've learned the economical, environmental, and health benefits that come with growing your own food, or consuming local. I've personally experienced the financial relief from growing a backyard garden through our Opportunity Gardens Program.

The thing I learned right from the beginning with CCUA is that food can be a uniting factor. Sure, we all have different foods that we grew up with — some passed on through culture, some based on our region of origin. But for the many differing views we have around food, the constant truth remains: We all eat. And that becomes a place where we can start a conversation, and learn from each other.

And so CCUA invites everyone in the greater Mid-Missouri area to join in on that conversation on October 4th. We want to connect with you where you are in the food system — be it backyard gardener or consumer, beginning gardener or refugee farmer.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.


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