FAQs


Thank you for your interest in the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture.  We have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions for your convenience. They are organized by program.

OPPORTUNITY GARDENS

What is the Opportunity Garden Program?

Opportunity Gardens is CCUA’s primary community outreach program.  We work with families living with low-income to empower them to build gardening into their lifestyles. We provide a basic raised bed garden (or tilling service), startup tools, a growing guide booklet, and three years of follow-up mentorship at their garden. This package of services is free of charge and helps families climb the home garden learning curve, building community around good food.

Where are the Opportunity Gardens?

Opportunity Gardens are at the individual applicant’s home.

How much does an Opportunity Garden cost the family applying?

The materials, soil preparation, seeds, seedlings, tools, and mentoring are all given free of charge to low income families who qualify. In some cases, families have basic tools or may even have a garden started, but are struggling. We can provide mentoring to help families better utilize their existing space. Some families came from a farming background but lack equipment, supplies or funds to start-up a garden. We help there, too, free of charge through generous donations made by the United Way, Boone County Community Trust, private donors, and through proceeds from our Garden Pro services.

Are the Community Gardens we see around town Opportunity Gardens?

No, those are assisted by Community Garden Coalition (CGC). While CCUA partners with CGC to serve the community in gardening and urban agriculture needs, we are not managing or leading community gardens. However, some participants in the Opportunity Gardens program have garden space in community gardens.

Garden Pro Services (formerly “Edible Landscaping”)

What are Garden Pro Services?

Garden Pro provides area residents and businesses with a range of services for their garden, orchard, native plantings, rain barrels, and rain gardens. We specialize in one-on-one garden mentoring similar to that offered by the Opportunity Garden program. All services are offered at an hourly rate indicated on our Summary of Services. A hard bid is generated for all projects to ensure good communication and expectations from day one.

When is a good time to contact CCUA about Garden Pro services?

Any time of the year!  We operate year-round, rain or shine, hot or cold.  However, many of our services, such as tilling, are weather-dependent and cannot be done when the ground is frozen or rain-saturated.  Early fall is the ideal time to start a new garden, but spring also works well.   Fruit trees and berry bushes are best planted between December 1st and March 1st, but planting during the season is also doable.  Site prep for fruit tree planting is best started in early fall.

Where does CCUA’s Garden Pros Services reach?

A vast majority of our jobs are within the city limits. We can travel to out of town sites, but may build in travel time to help cover our costs.

Why should I hire CCUA for my next project?

CCUA’s Garden Pros are dedicated to increasing edible landscaping plantings that provide local food production and to supporting local gardeners in growing vegetables and native plants.  This effort improves our urban ecosystem and improves land usage in our city.  Plus, a percentage of every billable hour helps support our Opportunity Gardens program that assists low-income families in growing food at home.

URBAN FARM EXPERIENCES
Who can come out on Urban Farm Experiences?

The Urban Farm is designed to provide a unique learning opportunity for people of all ages.  We have a wide range of curriculums developed specifically for K-12 students.

What should we expect to see on the field trip?

The Urban Farm showcases a working produce farm with a range of annual and perennial crops that change throughout the growing season. The border of the farm has native plants, a rain garden, and perennial herbs. We also raise egg-laying chickens and occasionally raise meat birds. We also have a composting operation that recycles our crop residues and food scraps from local restaurants.

Where is the Urban Farm?

We are conveniently located in central Columbia at 1209 Smith Street, one block south of the Business Loop on College Ave.

When is a good time to schedule a Field Trip?

Our growing season typically runs between March 15th and October 20th.   We recommend scheduling several visits to the farm over the course of the season so you and your group can see how the farm changes and the tasks of maintaining the farm also change.

Why should we visit the Urban Farm?

Visitors get to see a little bit of rural life right in the middle of the city and explore how the two interact.  We have created a space that provides meaningful experiences for groups of any size or interest.  Gardening and outdoor education is adaptable to interface with any topic or learning objective.  Contact us about integrating the Urban Farm into classroom or extra-curricular activities.

How do we set up an Field Urban Farm Experience?

Contact our Urban Farm Associate, Kyle Holland at kyle@columbiaurbanag.org or 573-514-4174.  She will work with you to develop a plan for the field trip and schedule a date(s).

TOURS

Who can come out for a tour of the Urban Farm?

Anyone is welcome to come out for a tour!

What do we see on the tour?

We will walk through the Urban Farm to see the working educational farm in action.

Where should we meet for the tour?

Our Urban Farm is at 1209 Smith Street, a block south of Business Loop, just off College.

When is a good time to take a tour?

We can give tours year round, but between April 1st and October 20th is the best time to see the diversified vegetable production in action.

Why should I take a tour?

You will see cutting edge Urban Agriculture in action right here in Columbia, MO.   Tours are a great way to learn if you are considering getting involved with CCUA or learning more about urban agriculture.

How do I set up a tour?

Please call our office at 573-514-4174 to set up a time to visit the Urban Farm or to tour our other sites.

PRODUCTION

What is the function of the CCUA’s Urban Farm?

The CCUA’s Urban Farm is an educational farm in the heart of Columbia at 1209 Smith Street.  The purpose of the farm is to reconnect Columbia residents with the importance of food production. Started in 2010, the entire farm is 1.3 acres, with about ⅔ an acre devoted to fruit and vegetable production. In addition to vegetables, there are also laying hens, giant compost piles, and a children’s teaching garden.

Everyone is encouraged to stop by the farm at any time to stroll around the grounds. The farm is filled with interpretive signs and other educational demonstrations. The CCUA also offers intensive on-farm learning opportunities through our volunteer program that cover the foundations of small scale sustainable vegetable production via hands-on experience.

Where does the produce go?

The Urban Farm is primarily an educational resource for sustainable food production; however, the by-products of this demonstration are delicious fruits and vegetables. The CCUA sells its produce at the Columbia Farmers Market during Spring, Summer, and Fall. An increasing percentage of the farm’s produce is donated to local food pantries and hunger relief outlets through the Planting for the Pantry program. Revenue from produce sales and Planting for the Pantry goes right back into the Urban Farm’s operating costs and educational programming.

In 2013, the CCUA began a philanthropic initiative called “Planting for the Pantry.” Through an annual giving campagin, individuals, businesses, clubs and churches donate to “sponsor a row” or partial row of produce at the Urban Farm. These sponsorships ensure that fresh produce is donated to local food pantries. See the Planting for the Pantry FAQ.

How is the food produced?

The Urban Farm is not certified organic, however we place high importance on food production methods that are environmentally and socially sustainable. We have consciously decided not to become a certified organic operation for one main reason; while organic certification is a great way to quickly inform geographically distant consumers about general production methods, we feel that our close proximity to most Columbia residents should encourage people to come out and see with their own eyes what a sustainable production system means. The “Certified Organic” label has become a type of security blanket because urban consumers often cannot see firsthand the production methods of the rural farms they buy food from. Since we are in the city limits, we want people to actually travel the few miles if they are curious about our production methods. With actual face-to-face interactions with our farmers, our customers gain a better understanding of sustainable agriculture.

Important production methods for us are:

Making compost: Our main source of fertility at the Urban Farm is compost that we make from our garden scraps, chicken bedding, leaves, and food scraps from Uprise Bakery. It takes about a year for a freshly formed compost mountain to turn into the rich compost that we add to our garden beds and our potting mix. Our proximity to urban food waste streams and our production methods enables us to produce enough compost for all of our annual needs, a somewhat unique scenario for small produce farms.

Permanent beds: Unlike most farms, our vegetable beds never move their place from year to year. This is to reduce the amount of tilling we have to do. There are a lot of benefits to tilling (quick, easy bed preparation, easy weeding, good soil aeration, etc), but there are a lot of drawbacks as well (soil erosion, soil compaction, microorganism dieback, etc). On a space as small as ours, the drawbacks of tilling outweigh the benefits. We till about 10% of our cultivated land each year. The foundation of our agricultural philosophy is conserving and building our soils, and reducing tillage is an important element of preserving soil health.

No synthetic sprays: We mostly rely on predatory insects to keep pest problems down. We also use physical barriers to keep pests away when applicable. We have used some OMRI (organic) certified sprays in times of severe pest infestations, but that has been rare. In addition, we rely on a healthy layer of straw mulch to keep weeds down, and have never controlled farm weeds with herbicides of any kind. We believe that cultivating strong, healthy plants and not a regimented spray schedule is the key to a productive garden.

Chickens: We have lots of laying hens at the farm (we have no roosters). The City of Columbia has a chicken ordinance that stipulates that a household can only have 6 birds. The CCUA received a variance from that ordinance, and are approved to have as many as 50 birds at one time. We are also the “chicken pound” of Columbia. Meaning, if a household no longer can keep its chickens, they can call us, and we will take their birds. We have the chickens because they generate fertilizer for the compost piles. The chickens also offer us the added benefits of living garbage disposals (they eat lots of food scraps), and entertainment for all of the school age children that come to the farm.

Is this a volunteer run farm?

We have a paid Farm Manager and a small crew on staff that manages production and marketing. The Farm Manager oversees regularly scheduled volunteers that provide service learning direct service that helps us grow more food, and provide meaningful hands-on education.

PLANTING FOR THE PANTRY

What is Planting for the Pantry?

Beginning in 2013, the CCUA began a philanthropic initiative called “Planting for the Pantry.” During our annual giving campaign, individuals, businesses, clubs and churches make donations to “sponsor a row” or partial row of produce at the Urban Farm. These funds subsidize the cost of fruits and vegetables that the CCUA donates to local food pantries and hunger relief outlets. In 2013, the CCUA sent over 1 ton of fresh produce to the Annie Fischer Food Pantry with help from generous donations from many community members and organizations. Our goal in the coming years is to send increasing amounts of produce to food pantries around Columbia until all of the food we grow is donated locally.

What does a row sponsorship pay for?

Row sponsorships are used to do three things, of every dollar donated: $0.50 provides fresh produce to local food pantries, $0.25 supports CCUA’s education and outreach mission, and $0.25 is invested into a CCUA Endowment Fund to support long term operations.

Who takes part in Planting for the Pantry?

Community members, area businesses, churches, and organizations sponsor rows and partial rows at CCUA’s Urban Farm  Donations start at $5 a square foot. A full row sponsorship is 240 square feet at $1,200.

 

Why is this initiative important for Columbia?

Planting for the Pantry helps CCUA distribute fresh produce to people in need in our community, thus helping feed people today. Our education and outreach trains people to grow food today, helping feed people tomorrow. The CCUA Endowment fund provides financial stability for CCUA to continue urban agriculture education and programming into the future.

How do I get involved?

You can sign up today to sponsor a row (or partial row) through the Planting for the Pantry program. Go online to securely give, or print off a sponsorship form and mail it to CCUA, P.O. Box 1742, Columbia, MO 65205. Contact Adam Saunders at 573-514-4174 or adam@columbiaurbanag.org for more information.

MEMBERSHIP

What is the CCUA Member program?

The Member program is a great way to show your support for CCUA! Members get some great CCUA gear with their membership and are invited to special events during the year. For details about the different levels of membership available, visit our Membership page.

Who becomes a member?

CCUA Members support the work and mission through their donation, personal work, and positive word-of-mouth advocacy and connection making.

Where are CCUA’s members located?

We have members from New York, NY, to Los Angeles, CA, but most of our members live in and around the mid-MO area.

Why should I become a member?

CCUA Members choose to support CCUA because they believe in the mission and work of CCUA.  They recognize the value of building the urban agriculture food system and empowering people to be more active in their personal food production.

How do I become a member?

You can sign up now for our membership program at our Membership page.

PUBLIC SPEAKING

Can someone come out to talk to my group?

Yes!  Our staff can provide a range of presentations or facilitate discussions to fit the nature or interests of the group.   We are pleased to speak with social clubs, church groups, businesses, or anyone about CCUA’s vision for the local food system and how the current programs are taking us there little by little.

What will we learn?

America has a robust history of urban agriculture over the past generations.  Today, many exciting developments are coalescing such as the Slow Food movement, a growing interest in the national food system, a growing interest in home gardening and local farming, the “Grow Native!” initiative that supports urban ecology, and many more.  This creates a very exciting and dynamic setting to do work with many opportunities for collaboration.  CCUA staff is eager to share how these factors have come together in Columbia and our vision for how these things can continue to develop.

How do I schedule a meeting?

Call our office at 573-514-4174 to schedule a talk with your group or a tour of the Urban Farm today!