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Boone County Soil and Water Conservation District, Missouri

Meeting with “Nature Explore” to design an outdoor classroom.

The Boone County SWCD’s project focused on the creation of an agriculture park in central Columbia in partnership with the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Columbia Farmers Market, Sustainable Farms and Communities and City of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. The goal is a park destination for all the city’s residents and visitors to learn about sustainable food production, see agriculture in action, and buy local farm products.

 Elements of the site may include an educational urban farm, demonstration gardens, an outdoor classroom and a facility for community events and farmers markets. Design features such as rainwater catchment systems will demonstrate water conservation, composting food waste will demonstrate soil health and parts of the park will remain “naturalized”, growing native plants, to teach lessons on storm water and pollinator habitat and ecology.

To date, over $2.5 million has been raised with another $1 million from private and public sources pending. When the initial application for funding was submitted, only $400,000 was available from the Columbia City Park Sales Tax. Grant funds were used to produce marketing materials, create the designs for the park and outdoor classroom, publish a website, and provide staff assistance which has proven invaluable to the success of the fundraising and marketing campaigns.

Meetings and informational sessions have been held with stakeholders and the public obtain feedback on the plans and direction of the project. Architects and engineers, with public input, provided visualizations of the future Ag Park, allowing for a clear picture of the end goal during the donation campaign.

The “Design Development” component of the site plan is completed. Architects and engineers are now working on the biddable construction documents with breaking ground anticipated this winter. An editor updated the “Growing Guide” used to teach backyard gardeners, and will be a large part of outreach efforts moving forward.

Attendees sit at the “mocked up” agriculture park during the campaign launch ceremony. Organizers set up temporary benches and planters and used small flags to mark the locations of buildings, sidewalks and gardens.

Sustainability

The project has received overwhelming support and the donations from private and public sources reflect that. As of mid-July, the project received totals $1,336,189 cash and $1,189,297 pledges. Over $1 million more in other proposals are pending. All cash is being held either by the Community Foundation of Central Missouri or the City of Columbia. The funds contributed to this project will help leverage future donations that support this project’s long-term success.

Several stakeholders are involved with the project, and more will be pursued; they will be a big part in ensuring the continuation of the Ag Park into the future. The Ag Park will be open as an educational resource to many different organizations, and their use of the park will create an interest in the long-term continuation and success of the project.

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