The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture is a volunteer based organization.

Board of Directors

  • Ellen Thomas
  • Pat Fowler
  • Jill Lucht
  • Eric McDavid
  • Mitch Tucker
  • Jan Weaver

Staff Coordinators

Billy Polansky ( works as the General Manager of Columbia’s Center for Urban Agriculture, leading the day to day operations. He moved to Columbia in 2008 to be with his now-wife, and fellow CCUA team member, Carrie Hargrove. Before coming to Columbia, Billy spent time working at the Heifer Ranch educating people about agriculture and global poverty. He also served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Missouri River Communities Network, where he worked on local foods projects. Billy holds a bachelor’s degree in Geographic Science from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA and is now enrolled at Columbia College, in their MBA program. When Billy isn’t working you can find him at home reading, petting kitty cats or working in his garden.

Carrie Hargrove ( is CCUA’s Farm Manager. She has worked with CCUA first as a volunteer in 2009 and 2010 and then as an employee from 2011- present. Carrie manages all aspects of commercial food production for the organization with help from participants in the Garden Greenhorn Program, with whom she shares the intricacies and techniques of small scale food production via hands on experience. She loves being outside, and wishes she could spend most of her time identifying the myriad of insects found at the farm. In addition to bugs and the outdoors, Carrie loves her husband, Billy, and Martin Scorsese movies.

Ben Edes ( is in his first non-profit role as CCUA ‘s Edible Landscaping manager, which includes various responsibilities such as consultations with prospective clients and completing rain barrel, raised bed, tilling, irrigation, clearing, garden sitting, and compost bin projects.  He has worked in office, kitchen and laboratory settings but jumped at the chance to get outside and work the land.  With a master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Missouri, Ben takes any chance he gets at combining his passion for sustainability and his limited knowledge of mechanisms, with greater emphasis on the former.  His proudest completed project was building a battery-less, no-drag bicycle light from re-purposed materials; he enjoys the challenge of keeping things out of landfills.

Adam Saunders, ( as the Public Relations Coordinator, conducts outreach and promotional talks with local social groups, businesses and potential partners. He also helps with coordinating CCUA’s online outreach presence, strategic planning, and its fundraising efforts. Adam has been involved in community, agriculture, and environmental organizing in Columbia, MO since 2005 as a student with Sustain Mizzou. Adam has been gardening since a young kid, and being the son of two teachers, Adam has considered himself an informal teacher his whole life.  Within the CCUA, Adam is able to combine these passions to connect dots within the local food system – an exciting place to be working!

Trish Woolbright ( is CCUA’s Opportunity Gardens Program Coordinator. Trish has always had a love for growing her own food and being an environmental steward while also helping people live happy with the natural world. Trish’s previous experience includes serving as a social worker or conservation biologist in many different areas such as Namibia in sub-Saharan Africa; Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Michigan; Chattanooga, TN; and spending time in the Peace Corps; as well as working for a few other non-profit organizations. Trish received her bachelor’s in psychology from Washburn University and is a Master Gardener and will be pursuing her Master Preserver and Master Naturalist certificates in the next two years. In her free time, she likes to garden, draw, cook, and read.

Heather Gillich ( is the Education and Volunteer Coordinator for CCUA. In this role, Heather organizes field trips and farm tours, provides structure for potlucks and workshops, and recruits and trains our volunteers and interns. Heather graduated with a BA in Psychology from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland and completed graduated work in Ancient History and Cultural Sustainability. Her previous work includes working with adults and youth in Frederick, MD and Nashville, TN on community development projects before she accepted an AmeriCorps VISTA position with CCUA. Since moving to Columbia in March of 2012, Heather has worked to create space for genuine learning experiences at the Urban Farm. She is proud of the partnership in education that CCUA is forming in the community and looks forward to many awesome projects to come!  If you catch Heather in her free time, she will likely be enjoying the produce from her neighborhood community garden, biking on the Katy Trail, or spending some quality time outside with her dog.

AmeriCorps VISTAS

Christine Baker ( currently serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the CCUA Opportunity Gardens program. She has created standardized procedures to streamline the mentoring aspect of this program and make sure all participants are getting the help they need to become successful independent gardeners. Christine holds a master’s in Linguistics, but sidelined her previous career track researching language and cognition when she came to realize the true severity of food scarcity in urban environments. From then on, she decided to devote her life to learning how to grow her own nutritional food in the city so that she could teach others to do the same. She hopes to continue on her path of ultimately becoming an urban farmer and promote her belief that the food system needs to transition from industrial, mono-culture farms to diverse small scale farms. When she isn’t working with Opportunity Gardens, Christine can be found in her own garden, or in her kitchen cooking the rewards of her gardening labor. She also enjoys live music, riding her bike, and loves watching the St. Louis Cardinals.

Erin King, ( as the Public Relations and Advocacy VISTA to CCUA from the AmeriCorps program, manages CCUA’s public relations and visual presence through her background skills in graphic design, fundraising, event promotion and social media. She first discovered her immense passion for non-profit work at the 2011 Saint Louis Art Fair, where she worked as an artist and volunteer relations intern. It was also there where she learned about the AmeriCorps program from another intern, which proved to be a great way for her to combine her degree with her desire to do good for others. She’s a graduate from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she acquired a bachelor’s as a double major in Advertising & Marketing Communications, and Art with a Studio Emphasis. When not working, Erin can be found making art and crafts, and singing in the Columbia Chorale.

Kelsey Grant, ( currently serves with AmeriCorps VISTA as the Urban Farm Educator. As an Urban Farm Educator, she 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. One project last year really sparked Kelsey’s interest in food systems and the non-profit world. She wanted to explore both worlds, and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture was the perfect fit! She’s a graduate of Salisbury University, with a bachelor of arts in social work and minor in psychology. A native of the east coast from Dover, Delaware(!), Kelsey can be found at the library or outside riding her bike.

Part-Time Staff

Lori McCurdy ( currently works with CCUA’s Edible Landscaping department, consulting clients on ways to improve their landscape by integrating native plants, as well as edibles.  She also collaborates 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. Throughout her career, she has had a strong interest in connecting others to the natural world around them, because she believes understanding the ways in which we are interconnected to the earth is imperative to our success as a society. Lori acquired her Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies at Colorado State University, and in 2009, was certified as a Missouri Master Naturalist. When she’s not working, she can be found playing outside with her husband and their two kids.

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