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HISTORY REVIVED: The relocated Ozark Mill is designed with restaurants, a speakeasy bar and an urban farm.
HISTORY REVIVED: The relocated Ozark Mill is designed with restaurants, a speakeasy bar and an urban farm.

Finley’s New Frontier: Farmers market comes to 32-acre Finley Farms

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Activity at the 32-acre Finley Farms development in Christian County is no longer just future plans and construction work, as the Ozark Farmers Market relocated to the site May 2.

Now in its 13th season, the market is open 3-7 p.m. every Thursday through September. It’s located just off State Highway NN, near the entrance to Finley Farms, and marks the first ongoing community event for the development. A number of projects, including the restored Ozark Mill, multiple restaurants, an event venue and an urban farm, are part of the plans.

Finding a home at Finley Farms from the Ozark Community Center, aka The OC, was a desired goal for this season, said Katherine Dowdy, co-founder and treasurer of Ozark Farmers Market. The OC served as host 2015-18, after relocating from the Ozark square. The market’s popularity impacted county business and parking, necessitating a move from downtown five years ago, she said.

“That’s what’s so exciting about this – we’re back in our downtown district,” she said, adding farmers market officials started talking about a location change last year. At that point, only an announcement of future plans for the Finley Farms development had been made.

The Workshop, an interactive learning and making space where guests can take courses in seed starting, beekeeping and weaving inside a renovated 1930s-era industrial garage, is scheduled to open this summer. That would make it the first of the development projects to come online, said manager Sarah Stracke.

Earlier this year, crews relocated the 1833-era Ozark Mill to a newly constructed foundation as part of the historic restoration project. Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris owns the mill, located on the Finley River, as well as the 32-acre development.

The Ozark Mill, the development’s centerpiece, will be restored into a working mill for tours. Its foundation has been rebuilt.

Other planned features include:

• Riverside Grill, a full-service restaurant inside the mill that overlooks the Finley River and pays homage to the now-shuttered Riverside Inn

• The Garrison, a restaurant and speakeasy bar planned in the basement of the mill that’s a tribute to Howard Garrison, original proprietor of the Riverside Inn who was a bootlegger during Prohibition;

• The Farm, an urban farm that will grow fruits and vegetables from heirloom seeds to be used by Riverside Grill chefs;

• The Chapel, an open-air venue overlooking Finley River for ceremonies and as a trail site stop;

• The Post ice cream and coffee shop; and

• Riverside Bridge, which will be open to the public when not being used for private events.

The Workshop, situated next to the Ozark Farmers Market, is ramping up construction with the intention of opening by July, said Stracke. Ozark-based contractor Construct LLC’s building permit was approved a couple of weeks ago, she said. The building was previously a garage used by the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Shane Fraser, a construction manager with Bass Pro Shops, said via email budgeting for the project is not complete, but he expects construction costs for the 3,700-square-foot venue to come in at several hundred thousand dollars.

The space, which Stracke said would seat 50, will offer artisanal food, coffee and cocktails, as well as a variety of workshop programming via area craft experts. She said expected class options are weaving, leather working, farming, gardening, floral arranging and culinary.

Finley Farms officials currently are hiring for an executive chef, head farmer, head baker and banquet sales, Stracke said. Up to 10 employees will be hired at The Workshop, which will serve breakfast and brunch-style items Monday through Saturday and dinner Thursday through Saturday. The menu is still in development.

Stracke has seven years of experience in the food service industry, including stints for MaMa Jean’s Natural Foods Market LLC, Brick & Mortar Coffee LLC and Cherry Picker Package and Fare.

“The job description aligns with all of my passions,” said Stracke, who came on board in January. “The vision of Ozark Mill and Finley Farms is really focused on retaining the dignity of this agrarian landscape and bringing it into a more progressive business plan.”

Market start
Dowdy said the Ozark Farmers Market shares space with The Workshop, as music, food and drink vendors, along with teaching demonstrations, will be ongoing during the weekly market.

“We’ll work to create an event every week,” she said. “It’s definitely a partnership. Phases will materialize as time rolls on. The mill is hopefully going to open a year from now.”

Megan Morris, Johnny Morris’ daughter, who is also involved in the Finley Farms development, did not respond to emails seeking comment. Bass Pro spokesman Jack Wlezien said he was uncertain when The Post will open, which was previously expected to begin operations in the first half of the year.

Opening day of the farmers market brought out 21 vendors selling produce, fruit, eggs, baked goods, crafts and other items, Dowdy said. A maximum 31 vendors are signed up.

“We’re trying to see how we can find more space out there,” she said, adding there’s now a vendor wait list. “The interest is off the charts.”

Now in its third location in seven years, the Ozark Farmers Market moves should be finished, Dowdy said.

“It’s a farmers market on the farm,” she said. “I don’t see it going anyplace else.”

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