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Alumni Profile

City limitless

adam saunders

Adam Saunders, board president of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, welcomes guests to the organization's second annual Harvest Hootenanny Oct. 1, 2011. The event raises money for the city farm. Photo by Rob Hill

When Adam Saunders and his cohorts at the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture (CCUA) envision a Thanksgiving cornucopia, they might not necessarily picture corresponding hayrides or row crops in rural Boone County. That’s because they have created their own horn of plenty betwixt the asphalt and chain link of Business Loop 70 East and College Avenue.

The 1.3-acre farm is nestled in a neighborhood southwest of the intersection, where a group of enthusiastic agronomists have nourished, tilled and transformed the gravelly soil. About 100 volunteers grow seasonal vegetables that are sold at farmers markets, to visiting patrons and local businesses and restaurants such as Clover’s, Sycamore and the University Club. They also raise chickens, and if you're not squeamish, you can attend the Yard to Skillet workshop.

“Everybody gets a chicken and a knife, and we walk you through step-by-step what you need to do to process your own chicken,” says Saunders, BS, BSF ’08, MS ’10, who is CCUA board president.

The group also markets its landscaping services. For an hourly fee, CCUA will build retaining walls and fences, weed your garden or plant edible landscaping (its specialty). The civic-minded entrepreneurs have even installed raised beds of rot-resistant white oak in Columbia public housing locations.

 Most important, these fun-loving farmers hope to cultivate a connection between community and agriculture. Just witness their weekly Friday potlucks or annual Harvest Hootenanny featuring live music, barbecue, games and a silent auction.

“We’re making a business and creating jobs and economic activity, but we have a broader mission of demonstrating the viability of urban food production,” Saunders says. “When people come to the farm, it’s an experience.” —Marcus Wilkins