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Farmers Market seeks pavilion contributions

Farmers Market seeks pavilion contributions

When supporters of the Farmers Market began to plan a party marking the launch of their campaign to raise money for the construction of a pavilion, organizer Ginny Chadwick estimated a few hundred people would attend.

“We opened the event up to the public to let the whole community see what we were working on,” Chadwick said of the Imagine the Farmers Market event in July. “We didn’t charge money, or even ask for donations, because we wanted everyone to be able to attend and feel welcome.”

Rendering of the proposed Farmers Market Pavilion, which has stalls for about 100 vendors.

Huebert Builders donated their services to the cause, taking the design for the pavilion and laying it out on the market’s site, a parking lot behind the city’s Activity & Recreation Center (ARC), on the corner of Clinkscales and Ash streets.

“Dory Colbert, the campaign graphic designer, said, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we created an event where people could imagine what the new pavilion would look like?'” Chadwick said. “So we put up 10- by 10-foot tents for the vendor booths, a 30- by 60-foot tent to represent the indoor space and outlined the shape of the structure, stringing Christmas lights in between.”

Farmers got on board by donating over 1,000 pounds of local food, which about 15 local restaurants and kitchens used to provide a minimum of 500 samples each. Local bands also played, and there was an outdoor screening of the film “Tableland.”

“I thought we were doing a 200-person event when I first agreed to it, and there ended up being over 2,000 people,” Chadwick said. “It was amazing, and we didn’t run out of food. At one point I felt like the line was a fourth of a mile long, so I was asking people if there was anything we could do to speed it up. They said they were enjoying listening to the music so much that they didn’t mind waiting. The event spoke to the amazing amount of energy and community support that is going into this structure being created. Everyone was just so happy.”

Jeanette Gieringer, of Gieringer Farms, left, helps Jessica Dekker shop for vegetables at the Farmers Market.

This is the second time the Farmers Market vendors and supporters have conducted a fundraising campaign to build a permanent structure on the city-owned land. The first effort failed to meet a deadline for gathering the funds. This time the project has the backing of the city, which would help build, operate and maintain the facility with money raised by the organization under a “Memo of Understanding” passed by the City Council in May 2007.

“The city is hugely on board, particularly with the contribution of the land,” said Dan Kuebler, chairman of Sustainable Farms & Communities, a non-profit organization that runs the market. Once the pavilion is built, he said, Parks and Recreation Department employees will be programming and maintaining the grounds for festivals and events when the Farmer’s Market is not operating.

“We will be quietly going out into our community and raising money, and we plan on having more events in the future,” Kuebler said. “The completion date will depend on how the money flows in, but we’re being optimistic and shoot for next fall.”

The city gave Sustainable Farms and Communities two years to raise $900,000. After a slow start, the current campaign has compiled over $200,000 in donations, grants, and pledges. The goal is a $1.8 million pavilion, twice the original target.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Kuebler. “Right now a pavilion is needed terribly by the community and the Market. We’re busting at the seams, and customers and beginning to feel a little crowded. Local, nutritious food is strong in the community right now, and there are more growers that want to join.”

More than 4,000 customers per day have been shopping at the Saturday markets since May, and one Saturday in June reached 5,000. A recent rainy Saturday reduced customer attendance by more than 75 percent, indicating that with no roof, permanent restrooms, or other amenities, business at the market is highly dependent on weather conditions.

The Farmers Market Pavilion will feature more space for vendors, as well as parking, restrooms, an extended market season, a meeting room, a certified kitchen, a covered patio and benches, a playground, a fountain, demonstration gardens, and community gardens.

The Columbia Farmers Market was first organized in 1980 by a small group of farmers who had been vending out of pickup trucks at gas stations and various other locations around the city. The vendors sold their vegetables on the old County Fairgrounds, the market’s current home.

In 1992, the Fair moved to its current location north of Columbia, and all buildings at the old site were torn down. The Farmers Market was held in an open parking lot near Parkade Plaza during the summers of ’93 and ’94.  With none of the shelter from the elements that vendors and customers had become accustomed to, serious discussion began regarding the need for a more permanent location and facility.

In 1995, the city purchased the old fairgrounds, where the ARC was eventually constructed, and the Farmers Market was able to return to its original location. From the late 1990s through the early 2000s, Farmers Market and community members developed a plan for building a permanent pavilion, which was combined with a proposal for an ice rink next door. Although voters did not approve the package, the incentive remained alive.

To make a donation to the Pavilion project, stop by the booth at Farmers Market, or visit the Web site, www.farmersmarketpavilion.org, to make a secure online donation through PayPal. Checks made out to Sustainable Farms & Communities can also be sent to P.O. Box 1092 Columbia, MO 65205.

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The fundraising campaign for the Farmers Market pavilion project is getting a boost from photographer Dan Hemmelgarn and his wife, dietician Melinda Hemmelgarn. They’ve created a calendar featuring photographs of farmers’ hands and are donating the proceeds from sales to the Farmers Market project.

“In January 2008, Dan and I began meeting with farmers to capture images of their hands,” Melinda Hemmelgarn said. “Dan shot photos while I asked questions about the joys and challenges of farming.

“As a dietitian, I recognize the value of farmers’ markets in supporting public health, sustainable agriculture and quality of life,” Hemmelgarn said. “Where else can you find a dozen varieties of just-picked peppers, heirloom tomatoes and purple potatoes? My family owes its health, in part, to the high quality food we’re able to purchase at the market. But, the market needs a better shelter and we wanted to help raise funds to build it. The calendar project was our way of giving back.

The calendar will be sold at the market on Saturday mornings until the market closes mid-November.

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