Spreading nourishing roots throughout the community.
Horticulture is the science and art of growing fruits, vegetables, flowers, or ornamental plants, and it’s what drives the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture (CCUA) to produce fresh fruits and vegetables for the community. It’s a fundamental understanding of the importance of nourishment from seed to plate.
CCUA also recognizes that developing agricultural skills to connect individuals with the land helps continue farming and cultivation for future generations. Lexi Linsenman, CCUA development manager, says the nonprofit works year-round to provide produce while promoting skills for gardening, agriculture, and cooking via a number of initiatives, including Garden Pro, Opportunity Gardens, Planting for the Pantry, Produce Prescription, and Therapy Gardens.
Planting for the Pantry connects individuals with access to fresh and healthy foods. Directed by Tony Minnick, community volunteers grow and harvest fresh foods daily in several of CCUA’s garden locations. The produce is given to local food pantries and other organizations that serve individuals in and around Columbia. Linsenman says the program’s benefits include “increasing health outcomes and providing fresh, tasty food that is grade-A produce.” That effort keeps fresh, local produce in the community to provide for neighbors in need.
“Sometimes the produce is harvested that morning and goes home with neighbors that day,” she explains.
Produce Prescription is run by Katie Molitor and works through a collaboration among CCUA, Compass Health Network, and Columbia Farmers Market. Highlighting the importance of nutrition and nourishment for health, “prescriptions” for produce from the farmers market are written by healthcare providers at Compass Health Network. The prescription allows families in Boone County with children under the age of 19 who live at home to gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
The program personifies the legendary Hippocrates edict: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Linsenman notes that not only does the Produce Prescription program improve health for the whole family and lowers the risk of diet-related diseases, but it also supports local farmers and filters money back into the community. The prescriptions can be exchanged at the Columbia Farmers Market each week for up to $20 worth of fresh produce.
Therapy Gardens is run by Matthew Dolan in collaboration with patients receiving drug and alcohol rehabilitation services at Phoenix Programs. Horticultural therapy is a nationally recognized practice that seeks to provide therapeutic treatment for improved mental and physical health while engaging in gardening. The Therapy Gardens program applies horticultural therapy principles to existing rehabilitation programs, providing the opportunity for individuals to connect with nature and gardening while emphasizing mindfulness and nutrition. Caring for the produce also allows individuals to recognize the importance of caring for themselves.
“They replace an addiction with gardening and create healthier habits,” Linsenman says.
CCUA’s programs would not be possible without community involvement. One way to get involved and make an impact is to volunteer. The center is always accepting volunteers, whether individual or group – all are welcome to volunteer, and no prior experience is required.
Donations make up a sizable percentage of the nonprofit’s funding sources. All donations go towards the programs at CCUA, providing an outlet for individuals who want to volunteer their time and create better access to fresh produce for community members in need. Other sources of funding come from private grants, government contracts and grants, and earned income from the Garden Pro program.
Linsenman says another way to get involved with the programs is simply by spreading awareness about CCUA’s services and the benefits they provide to the community.
Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture
Columbia’s Agriculture Park
1769 W Ash St, Columbia, MO 65203
Veterans Urban Farm
1207 Smith St, Columbia, MO 65201
Kilgore’s Community Garden
700 N Providence Rd, Columbia, MO 65203