Urban Roots Farm offers locally grown produce to city dwellers in innovative ways

Delicately planted near downtown, Springfield, Mo., grows Urban Roots Farm owned and operated by Adam and Melissa Millsap. Daughter, Bela, 6 and son, Owen, 4, love to get their hands dirty along side mom and dad.
Adam and Melissa both grew up in Springfield and enjoy the convenience of living in town. The couple bought their current home nine years ago before plans for Urban Roots were ever made. Life happened and their career paths took new directions so the couple began searching for new opportunities.
In June 2010 they bought the land directly behind their house, which included 1 1/2 acres and apartments. The couple saw a unique opportunity. Adam said, “The apartments are an original part of the plan. It allows people who are interested in farming a chance to be able to live here. The apartments enable this project – it takes a lot of burden off of the farm.
“Social responsibility played a part in our decision. People are farther removed from the food system so we want to enable that learning to take place,” explained Adam.
The farm has come a long way since 2010. “We had a lot to do before we could start planting but really we’ve only been planting for a year,” said Adam. The farm has developed from one high tunnel and three prepared beds last year into three 30×48’ high tunnels on wheels that each rotate over three plots. The high tunnels are moved from plot to plot depending on the cycle in the growing season. Urban Roots is in production all four seasons of the year.
Community is a high priority for Adam and Melissa. Urban Roots farm participates in Community Support Agriculture (CSA), a way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from the farmer. CSA members, from the Springfield area, pay up front for 24 weeks of produce in return.
“It’s cost effective and a good way to get to know people in the community who have the same vision but they also share the risk with us,” explained Adam.
This year Urban Roots has 32 CSA members. “Last year we tracked and planted as a CSA to determine how many shares we could sell,” Adam continued.
Urban Roots also sells their produce at the newly opened Farmers Market of the Ozarks located on the south side of Springfield. “I’m very excited about the new market. I think it’s the kind of market we’ve needed for a long time,” shared Adam, who is president of the board for Farmers Market of the Ozarks.
Their produce can also be found for sale at retail stores like Homegrown Food and Mama Jeans along with a few local restaurants.
“In the later half of last year (June-August) we sold 3,500 pounds of produce and anticipate three times that this year because we are in a better position this spring than last,” Adam said.
Education is also high priority for Adam and Melissa. Melissa has spearheaded several different projects in the Springfield community. She founded the Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition (SUAC) to promote healthy lifestyles and environments through hands on education about production and consumption of locally-produced, natural, healthy foods.
SUAC has created the DIRT project, which plants schoolyard gardens in the Springfield School District to accompany what the students are learning in the classroom.
Another SUAC project that has directly involved Urban Roots and other area farms is the Ozarks Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) by enhancing educational opportunities for farm interns.
This year Urban Roots is sharing their knowledge with two interns from the CRAFT program. The interns live in the apartments on Adam and Melissa’s property and treat their farming responsibilities like a fulltime job.
Urban Roots hosts micro-seminars for the interns studying a range of topics from farm safety to bee keeping. “We all learn together,” stated Adam.
Adam concluded, “Mel and I didn’t grow up on a farm but our grandparents had farms. So we could always visit them. We didn’t have the opportunity to take over a developed farm like some. Hopefully we can teach others who may have been in our same situation.” 


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