First organized in 1980, the Columbia Farmers Market has grown to become one of the premier locations for locally grown and produced food, crafts, flowers, plants, and other agricultural products 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 Columbia Chamber of Commerce, the Boone County Extension, and other groups to officially organize the market.
The early farmers market opened every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at the former Boone 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. The venue offered shelter to customers and vendors alike. This arrangement worked well, save for the two weeks every summer when the vendors vacated the premises to accommodate the Boone County Fair.
In 1992, the county fair moved north of Columbia. All of the buildings at the old site were torn down, and the farmers market had to find a new home. During the summers of 1993 and 1994, the market set up on an open parking lot near Parkade Plaza. Unprotected from sun, wind, and rain, farmers market fans and vendors began to seriously discuss the need for a more permanent, and sheltered location 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 shelter. The farmers market has since remained behind the ARC.
In 2010, the year-round market opened, offering markets every Saturday through the winter months. The Winter Market originally set up at the Rock Bridge Christian Church, though it quickly outgrew the space. In 2011 the indoor market moved to the Parkade Center, where it continues to operate from November through March.
Over the past few years, the Columbia Farmers Market has experienced tremendous growth. The weekend customer counts regularly surpassed 3,000, and vendor membership expanded to 80 local farmers, producers, and artisans. The market is deeply involved in the community, regularly hosting musicians, artisans, non-profit groups, educational opportunities, and many other special events. As recent national attention has focused on the many benefits of locally grown food, the future of our farmers market looks brighter, and plans are in the works for a market shelter. Come visit us, and experience the best foods and artisan items that Mid-Missouri has to offer!