COLUMBIA — A tentative timeline has been set for raising the $800,000 needed to begin work on a Columbia Farmers Market pavilion and adjacent educational farm.
Friends of the Farm, which includes representatives of the market and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, has been working with consultant Eric Staley of Missionmapping LLC since mid-summer to develop a fundraising plan for the $1.2 million first phase of the project.
The group is a partnership between Sustainable Farms and Communities, the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Columbia Farmers Market and the city Parks and Recreation Department, which has pledged $400,000.
The group hopes to secure the remaining $800,000 in funding before October 2017, the earliest date construction could begin.
A preliminary design for the Farmers Market Community Center and Agriculture Park shows a permanent pavilion on city-owned Clary-Shy Park land at the Activity and Recreation Center and an adjacent educational farm.
The city will be in charge of construction, operation, maintenance and scheduling and would lease the facilities to the Columbia Farmers Market for $1,000 a month.
John Corn, board president of Columbia Farmers Market, said he expects the fundraising campaign will begin in earnest in mid-winter or early spring. Each of the three partner organizations have been setting aside funds to pay for consulting on fundraising, he said.
Each organization has a small amount of money set aside toward the $800,000 goal, but, as Corn said, "we're starting pretty close to zero."
Friends of the Farm has applied for a grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund through the National Park Service and plans to apply for a community food grant through the USDA.
Adam Saunders, co-founder and director of development for Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, said the group's fundraising plan is still in development.
“We haven’t ruled out anything publicly. It will be a series of grants and donations that will come from a lot of different sources. It’s still pretty early,” Saunders said.
Eventually, the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture hopes to move its entire operation to Clary-Shy Park from the current location on College Avenue.
"It's a high-profile site that has a lot of traffic," Saunders said. The group would maintain the educational gardens, provide programming on site and lease office space from the city.
Simon Oswald Architecture estimated $1.2 million in construction costs for the first phase of the project. Through the parks sales tax from 2015, Parks and Recreation has $200,000 available for the project in October 2017 and another $200,000 available in October 2018. Friends of the Farm will raise the remainder.
The idea for a permanent market pavilion dates to 1999. The city’s offer in May of $400,000 in matching funds re-energized the project, according to previous Missourian reporting. Plans for the most recent design were unveiled in early August.
Parts of the plan were revised in response to public feedback at two drop-in sessions. For example, commenters worried that the two soccer fields used by neighboring schools for sports practice would be eliminated with the addition of the demonstration gardens, so Friends of the Farm altered the plan to leave the largest soccer field in place for public use.
"The feedback we’ve gotten has been overwhelmingly positive," Saunders said.
Kenneth Pigg, chairman of Sustainable Farms and Communities, said he believes the collaborative nature of the project increases the likelihood of success. The organization was put together in 1998 to raise money for a market pavilion.
Sustainable Farms and Communities "tried to do this project pretty much by itself," Pigg said. "It doesn’t work that often when you’re trying to raise this kind of money.”
He said organizing a fund-raising campaign will help solidify ideas.
“We have a lot of work to do over the next four to five years to make this work,” Pigg said. “None of us have ever tackled a project like this before.”
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