The goal of this workshop was to convert a vacant building facing the town square into a community asset. The Oregon County Food Producers and Artisans Co-Op in Alton, MO applied to CIRD with the desire to expand into this building and develop a design that incorporated Oregon County’s unique cultural heritage and tradition of buying, selling, and trading handmade and homegrown goods. The vision is for the building to function as a public market, an edible courtyard, and an arts incubator.
The unique culture of the region played an integral role throughout the workshop: from the kick off presentation on the Ozarks’ vernacular architecture, to the live folk and country music that closed each day. Local and homemade food was served at every meal, and many design proposals were put forth for the new Co-Op and surrounding area. Participants included: local business owners and residents, representatives from their local Extension office, HeadStart, the Mid America Arts Alliance, USDA Rural Development, and from other cooperatives in nearby Counties.
In 2016 the Coalition for Ozarks Living Traditions was awarded $30,000 from the National Endowment for the arts Our Town Grant program to develop the architectural design and planning for the Co-Op expansion into the vacant building. Alton was also selected as one of seven communities to participate in a Smart Growth America (SGA) technical assistance workshop in July 2016. Both of these resources support Alton’s efforts to strengthen its economy through local foods, arts, and tourism.
Resource team members have contnued to work on designs, and on securing additional local and federal funding. The Co-Op is also beginning the exciting process of becoming a nonprofit, and until then, is working with their nonprofit sister organization, the Coalition for Ozark Living Traditions. Nonprofit status will eventually enable the Co-op to apply for federal and philanthropic foundation and was determined to be an effective governance model for the organization to grow in the community.The Co-Op has created a Youth Council, a committee dedicated to both engaging youth in the community through programming, and contributing their ideas to the Co-Op. They already have new events in the works, including organizing a series of ArtWalk events with other local businesses and community organizations.
To read our workshop notebook click here.
Learn more about what Alton has accomplished since our workshop by reading our blog, "Alton, MO Revisited: Town Awarded NEA Grant to Complete CIRD Workshop Plans."