Local Food AmeriCorps Project

Missouri Local Food AmeriCorps Program is Hiring NOW!

MRCN seeks ten dedicated, enthusiastic people to become the Local Food Project’s newest AmeriCorps members! Applications are being accepted now. 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 & AmeriCorps VISTA Partners

Ashland, MO

Sarah Cramer working on a trellis with students at Southern Boone Learning Garden

Sarah Cramer: Southern Boone Learning Garden’s AmeriCorps Activities Coordinator After more than a year of working with the Southern Boone Learning Garden as an intern, Garden Club leader, and school-day teacher, Sarah began her year of AmeriCorps service in August of 2014. As SBLG Activities Coordinator, she schedules, plans, and leads garden classes with all of the district’s K-5 students.

Sarah loves all things Missouri, and is always ready to recite the state’s symbols. What’s the state insect, you ask?  Why, it’s the honeybee!(She also maintains two hives of these fascinating bugs.)

Learn more about Sarah’s work at Southern Boone’s website.


Andrew Kent smiling with a group of students at the Learning Garden

Andrew Kent: Southern Boone Learning Garden Communications AmeriCorps  Andrew comes to Southern Boone all the way from the Pacific Northwest! This Eagle Scout brings with him a newly minted degree in Environmental Science from Portland State University, and an interest in the inquiry method of outdoor education.  Andrew enjoys photography, discovering new music, camping, and woodworking.  He’s still figuring out this whole Midwest thing, and though he’s generally impressed, he could do without the humidity.

Curious about Andrew’s work?  Learn more at Southern Boone’s web page. 

Brixey, MO

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Amelia visiting one of Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition’s gardens

Amelia LaMair: One Garden Local Food Initiative VISTA  Amelia is the first ever AmeriCorps VISTA to work with One Garden, a small non-profit whose mission is to cultivate and conserve indigenous and non-native plants and disseminate information on their potential benefits.

She works with farmers, community groups, food pantries, and schools in order to increase local production and consumption of fresh, healthy foods in and around Ozark County. Some of Amelia’s projects for the year are to establish an educational garden at a local school, facilitate networking among local producers, and coordinate monthly educational talks on sustainable agriculture. Amelia is passionate about growing and raising her own food, and loves to spend time in the woods and on the river.

Find out more about what Amelia does at One Garden’s website. 


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.


Steve Riesenberg volunteers at Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture’s annual ‘Harvest Hootnany’ fundraiser

Steve Riesenburg: CCUA AmeriCorps’s Outdoor Classroom Associate  In addition to helping with field trips on the farm, Steve Riesenburg also partners with Slow Food Katy Trail to administer their Harvest of the Month program.  After graduation, he followed promises of breakfast tacos and live music to Austin, Texas, where he worked for 2 years as a kindergarten teacher and in the field of water conservation. When not at the farm, he enjoys reading, backpacking, racquet sports, playing games, and occasionally all four at the same time.

More information about Steve’s work can be found on CCUA’s web page.




Lori McCurdy helping build Lucky’s Market’s milk crate garden

Lori McCurdy: Outdoor Classroom Program Manager  Lori McCurdy currently serves as the Outdoor Classroom Manager, helping schools and agencies plan their location’s outdoor learning space, and collaborating with community members and educators at various elementary schools on ways to better integrate nature into the curriculum, into the school yard, and into the daily experience of today’s nature-starved kids. She previously worked with CCUA’s edible landscaping program, consulting clients on ways to improve their landscapes by integrating native plants as well as edibles. When she’s not working, she can be found playing outside with her husband and their two kids.

Interested in learning more about Lori’s work?  Visit CCUA’s website.



Ellis with volunteers at the 14′ Fresh Food Drive

Ellis Cole: Columbia Farmers Market VISTA  Ellis helps the main market manager at Columbia Farmers Market. He assists in set-up, break-down, and day-to-day management of the market.  In the summer season, is the main manager of the Thursday market at Forum Christian Church.  In addition to these duties, he helps customers keep in touch with the market by updating the weekly newsletter and posting to Facebook and Twitter.

Challenges that Ellis is tackling this year will consist of finding new ways to make the children’s educational program more sustainable and obtaining more funding for the Access to Healthy Foods EBT matching program.

 More about Ellis’ work can be found on the Columbia Farmers Market page.



EcoArt Jess

Jessica painting rain barrels at Eco-Art Fest

Jessica Hill: MRCN’s Public Relations VISTA  After graduating from Mizzou with a Sustainable Agriculture degree, Jessica Hill signed on with MRCN’s as the Public Relations VISTA. In her coming year of service Jessica will work to promote the Missouri Local Food Program as a whole while planning and managing service events.  Her first service event, the Fresh Food Drive, raised over $1,000 worth of fresh produce for Mizzou’s Tiger Pantry.  When Jessica leaves the office, you can find her downtown Columbia promoting upcoming local rap battles or making dinner with friends.


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.

More information about Cynthia’s work with the Green Thumb can be found on their webiste.


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Summer getting creative in the kitchen

Summer Jensen: Green Thumb’s Nutrition Education and Community Programs Coordinator  Summer works with fellow Americorps VISTA member, Cynthia De Leon, to create high quality outdoor education programming for students within Kirksville’s R-III School District. Summer focuses on nutrition and outdoor education and implements community outreach events like cooking and horticulture demos and the NEMO Local Farmers Dinner! Summer fell in love with Northeast Missouri six years ago and has since made it her new home. She loves exploring the backwoods of Missouri and reading and working on lessons in her hammock on the cattle farm where she boards.

Still interested?  Find out more about what Summer does for the Green Thumb Project on their web page.


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.



 VISTA Members Who Paved the Way

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.




Brittany Rush

Brittany Rush managing plants in Southern Boone’s Learning Garden

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.

 For more information visit Southern Boone’s website.


Matt in front of sign Smile

Matt working at the Columbia Farmers Market winter market

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 developed an online volunteer sign-up page.

 For more on Matt’s work visit CFM’s web page.



Ben Utne and Kat Minx

Kat Minx (right) and Ben Utne working in one of SUAC’s local garden

Kat Minx: Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition Outreach Coordinator VISTA  Kat began working with SUAC in August 2013. 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.

 Learn more about what Kat did for SUAC at their website. 







AmeriCorps Logo

Interested in AmeriCorps?  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.