Cool breezes wafted through Jefferson Farm and Gardens on Friday afternoon, carrying scents of grass, newly-planted wild flowers - and fish.
"It reeks!" 16-year-old Chelsea Myers exclaimed as she watched Steve Kahrs of Osage Catfisheries wade into the lake and lower white buckets full of wriggling fish into the water.
About 10,000 fathead minnows, bluegill and catfish were released into the farm's seven-acre lake. Large mouth bass will be introduced this fall.
The lake is just one part of a 67-acre educational farm in southeast Columbia that is tentatively set to open to the public in the fall of 2008. The farm will include exhibits explaining things like good landscaping and building practices and demonstrations about fruit orchards, vineyards, and field crops.
The Osage Beach-based fish hatchery donated the fish to Jefferson Farm and Gardens, which is operated by the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute.
"When we see a cause worth investing in, we usually donate to it, and this was one of those," Kahrs said.
Chelsea's father, Rob Myers, is the executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute, which has been cultivating the farm for a little more than a year. The farm will be the first of its kind in Missouri.
"We're trying to educate the general public," Myers said. "We want to teach people about farming, as well as things you can grow at home, in your own garden. It should appeal to rural people and people from the city."
The lake will be the central focus of an exhibit teaching people about water habitats and good water quality. Part of the exhibit will teach people interested in installing backyard ponds about the benefits of different plants and fish. Native grasses and flowers have been planted around the lake, as well as aquatic plants in the shallow regions of the water. A large grove of trees will be planted on the south side of the lake to act as a buffer between the lake and runoff from nearby agricultural fields.
The lake is being stocked from scratch with fish and maintaining an ecological balance is important in keeping the lake's fish population healthy, Hunt said.
"The smaller fish will act as a forage base for the bass, when they come in," he said. "That's why we're putting these in now, to give them time to reproduce."
A third of the estimated 30,000 visitors per year are expected to be school children, and the institute is planning the addition of a children's garden and barnyard.