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

Board of Directors

  • Ellen Thomas – President
  • Jim Carrel – Treasurer
  • Jill Lucht – Secretary
  • Jan Weaver
  • Sarah Bantz
  • John Emery
  • Layli Terrill
  • Rob Long
  • Robbie Price
  • Lisa Guillory

Staff Coordinators

Billy Polansky ( works as the Executive Director 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 Urban Farm Manager. She has worked with CCUA first as a volunteer in 2009 and 2010, and later as an employee since 2011. 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.

Joseph Zarr ( is our Edible Landscaping Manager. He offers an array of edible landscaping services to commercial and residential clients in the Columbia, Missouri area while also installing raised garden beds for our Opportunity Gardens program. Joseph brings a diverse and holistic background to CCUA. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from the University of Minnesota in 2007, he traveled throughout the Western hemisphere learning a variety of farming and landscape design methods. The more he learns of landscape design, food growing, and food preparation, the more interested he is in human health and nutrition. Most recently, he has studied Functional Diagnostic Nutrition and Functional Nutrition. He considers food a medicine and he is thrilled to share his learnings and passions with the CCUA community every step of the way – from “field to plate”.

Adam Saunders, ( as the Development Director, conducts outreach and promotional talks with local social groups, businesses, and potential partners. He also helps coordinate CCUA’s online outreach presence, strategic planning, and fundraising efforts. Adam has been involved in community, agriculture and environmental organizing in Columbia, MO, since 2005 as a student with Sustain Mizzou. He has been gardening since a young age, 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 the dots within the local food system – an exciting place to be working!

Trish Woolbright ( is CCUA’s Opportunity Gardens Manager. Trish has always had a love for growing her own food and being an environmental steward while also helping people live happily with the natural world. Trish’s previous experience includes serving as a social worker and conservation biologist in many different areas such as Namibia in sub-Saharan Africa; Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Michigan; Chattanooga, TN. She has spent time in the Peace Corps and worked for a few other non-profit organizations. Trish received her bachelor’s in psychology from Washburn University; she 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 Programs Director 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, 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.

Erin King, ( as the Office Manager, manages the general office operations and CCUA’s public relations and visual presence using her background and 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 that 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 served as an AmeriCorps VISTA to the CCUA for two years before becoming a full-time staff member. She’s a graduate from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri, where she acquired a bachelor’s with a double major in Advertising & Marketing Communications, and Art with a Studio Emphasis. When not working, Erin can be found making art, serving at the soup kitchen, and singing in the Columbia Chorale.

AmeriCorps Members

Steve Riesenberg, (, currently serves with AmeriCorps as the Outdoor Classroom Outreach Associate. In addition to helping with field trips on the farm, he also partners with Slow Food Katy Trail to administer their Harvest of the Month program.  Steve was first turned on to agriculture and local foods while he was a student at Truman State University. 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. He is very excited to be combining his love of teaching with his passion for food and the environment over the coming year. Thus far, the proudest moment in Steve’s short career in education was being compared favorably to Professor Dumbledore. He hopes that he can bring a little bit of that magic to Columbia. When not at the farm, he enjoys reading, backpacking, racquet sports, playing games, and occasionally all four at the same time.

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. 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.

Part-Time Staff

Steve Woods (, in his role as Data Manager, is currently developing a centralized data storage, analysis, and retrieval system that integrates all aspects of CCUA’s mission, including education, production, and outreach. Steve has over fifteen years of experience in database creation and software engineering for robust, dynamic database content integration. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in general studies from Belmont University and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from Queens University, Charlotte. He is certified as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and a Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA). Steve currently volunteers on the Grant Elementary School Web Site Committee and assists with the web site for the City Garden School of Columbia.

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