First organized in 1980, the Columbia Farmers Market has grown to become one of the premier locations for locally grown and produced food, crafts, plants, and more in mid-Missouri. The Market was founded by a small group of farmers who had been selling their wares out of pickup trucks at gas stations and other locations around the city. Desiring a better location, these farmers worked with the Chamber of Commerce, the County Extension, and other groups to officially organize the Market.
Markets were held every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday on the County Fairgrounds in Columbia, now the site of the city's Activity & Recreation Center (ARC). Vendors set up beneath a pavilion provided by the Kiwanis Club, offering some shelter for customers and vendors alike. This arrangement worked well, except for two weeks every summer when the market had to vacate the premises when the County Fair was being held.
In 1992, the Fair moved to its current location north of Columbia. All buildings at the old site were torn down, and the Market had to find a new home. During the summers of 1993 and 1994, the Market was held in an open parking lot near Parkade Plaza, with none of the shelter from sun, wind, and rain that vendors and customers had become accustomed to at the old fairgrounds. During this difficult time, serious discussion began regarding the need for a more permanent location and facility for the Market that would benefit vendors and customers.
In 1995, the City purchased the old fairgrounds, where the ARC was eventually constructed, and the Market was able to return to its former location, albeit still without a building. It has been held on an open lot behind the ARC ever since.
Over the last few years, the Columbia Farmers Market has experienced tremendous growth, with weekend customer counts regularly surpassing 4,000 and membership expanding to include nearly 80 local farmers, producers, and artisans. The Market is deeply involved within the community, regularly hosting musicians, artisans, non-profit groups, educational opportunities, and many other special events for which the Market is a natural source of public contact. With more and more national attention focusing on the benefits of local food supplies, the future looks bright for the Market. Come visit us and experience the best foods and artisan items that mid-Missouri has to offer!