Local Food AmeriCorps Project

We’re recruiting!

MRCN seeks up to nine dedicated, enthusiastic people to become the Local Food Project’s newest AmeriCorps members! Applications accepted through mid-July, 2014. Visit our prospective AmeriCorps page to learn more.


Improving Lives through Local Food!

Jefferson City Planting With KidsAmeriCorps members write grants, teach programs, recruit volunteers, and more. MRCN enrolls these AmeriCorps members and then sends them to work for local food nonprofits in mid-Missouri.

You can meet our current AmeriCorps VISTA partners and view their work below.


 MRCN’s AmeriCorps VISTA Partners

Ashland, MO

Brittany Rush

Brittany Rush works in one of Southern Boone’s gardens.

Brittany Rush: Activities Coordinator for the Southern Boone Learning Gardens

Brittany joined the AmeriCorps VISTA team in August, 2013. Since then, she has worked to integrate community gardens into the lives of Ashland’s school students.

In October Brittany began coordinating volunteer groups to build the town’s newest creations: two handicap-accessible, raised garden beds. These gardens were made possible by a grant through the Missouri River Communities Network, and will be used by students, teachers, and parents.

You can visit the Southern Boone Learning Gardens Facebook page to learn more.


Columbia, MO


Erin King

Erin King shares one of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture’s live-in garden residents with a group of local students.

Erin King: Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture Public Relations VISTA

Pretty much anything you read from CCUA has passed by Erin’s desk. She manages CCUA’s public relations and visual presence through graphic design, fundraising, event promotion, and social media. One of her major focus areas includes CCUA’s “Planting for the Pantry” fundraiser.

Erin just signed on for her second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CCUA, and the organization is delighted to have her return.

To see more of Erin’s work, visit CCUA’s web site.


Kelsey Grant

Kelsey Grant leads the educational outreach activities of CCUA.

Kelsey Grant: CCUA Urban Farm Education VISTA

As an Urban Farm Educator, Kelsey performs tasks for both the education and volunteer departments. Some of her main duties include volunteer recruitment, Pre-K – 12 educational experiences, and adult service learning.

After serving last year with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) in Vinton, Iowa, she was ready to continue in service. A project in 2013 sparked Kelsey’s interest in food systems and the non-profit world, and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture became the perfect fit!

You can find out more about Kelsey’s work at CCUA’s website.


Matt in front of sign Smile

Matt helps to direct and manage the Columbia Farmers Market each time it is in session.

Matt Jernigan: Columbia Farmers Market Local Food VISTA

Matt is the assistant manager of the Saturday farmers market in Columbia. He oversees setup of the market, coordinates children’s activities, and provides information for customers and vendors. Matt also resurrected Columbia’s Crop Mob: a program connecting farmers with adult volunteers who want to experience farm work and local food.

For people needing the market when it is not in session, Matt operates the Columbia Farmers Market website. This winter he’ll develop an online volunteer sign-up page.

To explore Matt’s work, visit the Columbia Farmers Market website.



Kirksville, MO


VISTA Training Cynthia

Cynthia DeLeon is the Green Thumb Project’s Outdoor Education Specialist.

Cynthia DeLeon: Kirksville Green Thumb Outdoor Education Specialist

Cynthia joined the Missouri Local Food Program in February, 2014. As the Outdoor Education Specialist for Green Thumb, she will be responsible for sharing lesson plans, recruiting instructors, and modeling methods by which to engage students in food production.

Green Thumb’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of Northeast Missouri citizens by offering   opportunities for garden-based education, service-learning, and social enterprise that promote and strengthen local food systems.


Springfield, MO


Ben Utne

Ben Utne: Springfield Urban Ag Coalition DIRT Program VISTA

Ben Utne: Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition DIRT Program VISTA

Ben began organizing SUAC’s DIRT program in August, 2013.

DIRT educates community members and schoolchildren about the benefits of producing locally-grown food. At least 10 gardens were planted in Springfield’s R-XII school district. The DIRT Project encourages youth engagement, physical activity, and allows students to take part in the production and consumption of locally grown and sustainably grown foods in their own communities.

You can investigate more of Ben’s projects at the DIRT project’s web page.


Kat Minx and Ben Utne

Kat Minx (right) and Ben Utne working in one of the Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition’s local gardens.

Kat Minx: Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition Outreach Coordinator VISTA

Kat began working with SUAC in August. She works with VISTA Ben Utne on the DIRT project, as well as other facets of SUAC’s mission.

With Kat’s help, SUAC held their first annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner in November, 2013, featuring locally catered food and fresh greens from the Urban Roots farm. Kat also helped organize SUAC’s Cocktails and Wellies fundraiser, which drew over 200 people and grossed approximately $20,000. All proceeds supported healthy lifestyles in Springfield through locally-grown food.

Discover more of Kat’s work at the Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition web page.


 VISTA Members Who Paved the Way in 2013

Julie Zender with Sarah Cramer at Ashland's Southern Boone Learning Gardens

Julie Zender (left) worked with intern Sarah Cramer to promote one of Ashland’s Southern Boone Learning Gardens.

Julie Zender: Activities Coordinator for the Southern Boone Learning Gardens

In May, 2013, AmeriCorps VISTA member Julie Zender worked to introduce the benefits of community gardens to Ashland’s schools.

During her service year, Julie directed a student-based farmer’s market at Ashland Elementary. The kids learned math and economics skills as they earned over $500 in sales at their school. Some students even expanded their produce into Ashland’s own farmer’s market.

You can visit the Southern Boone Learning Gardens Facebook page to learn more.


Emily Young

Emily Young holding a basket of persimmons in the Lincoln University Extension area of Jefferson City.

Emily Young: Lincoln University Extension Local Foods Program Assistant

Emily helped to manage two projects in Jefferson City: Sprouts and Roots, and the Native Plants Program.

Sprouts and Roots continues to improve people’s lives, especially low-income children and seniors, through gardening and nutrition. Emily helped to organize summer camps through Sprouts and Roots that will continue in June and July, 2014.

The Native Plants Program promotes the use of native plants as specialty crops to create income for low-income individuals.

To get more details, visit the Lincoln University Extension Native Plants Facebook page.


Christine Baker

Christine Baker enjoying a flower in one of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture’s gardens.

Christine Baker: Opportunity Gardens VISTA for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture

During her year of service Christine worked with the Opportunity Gardens: an empowerment program that provides gardening classes, raised beds, tools, and seeds to disadvantaged populations in Columbia, MO. She tirelessly collected data to ensure that CCUA reached the greatest number of low-income people resourcefully.

In summer, 2013, she coordinated a 1000-ft garden that was installed in the Allen Walkway. Many tons of this public housing garden’s produce were donated to the local food pantry.

For more information, visit the CCUA website.


James DeBiasi with student group

James DeBiasi (back row, center) with a group of 22 Truman University student volunteers. This group spent a day to put nearly a foot of mulch on six new learning garden beds in late autumn, 2013.

James DeBiasi: Education Coordinator for the Green Thumb Project in Kirksville, MO

James arrived on Kirksville’s Green Thumb Project in March, 2013. He was responsible for many activities, particularly those related to students and outdoor education. He created interdisciplinary lesson plans, recruited teachers to instruct their students outside in the gardens, and managed fundraisers.

Green Thumb’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of Northeast Missouri citizens by offering garden-based education, service-learning, and social enterprises.

To find more details on James’ work, you can visit Green Thumb’s website.


Zoe Broder with School Group

Zoe Broder (back row, center) working with a student group in one of Ashland’s Southern Boone Learning Gardens. The kids worked together to learn optimal growing techniques.

Zoe Broder: Healthy Lifestyles Initiative Youth Engagement VISTA

When not at work on her title project, the youth engagement guide, Zoe worked in 2013 with other MRCN VISTA partners to promote access to local food. She supported Southern Boone’s Garden Club in Ashland and the Crop Mob in Columbia: a project meant to bring farmers and adult students together.

Zoe also organized the Empty Bowls project, partnering with a local 4-H club to raise $2700 for the Access to Healthy Food Program.



AmeriCorps LogoInterested in AmeriCorps? From December, 2013 through July 21, 2014, MRCN is hiring new AmeriCorps volunteers to continue working on local food projects in mid-Missouri.  Please check out our listings on the AmeriCorps website or our prospective AmeriCorps page to apply!  You can also connect with specific projects by calling MRCN directly at (573)256-2602.