Henry Kirklin Black Farmer Scholarship Fund

The Henry Kirklin Scholarship Fund has been established to support Black farmers in mid-Missouri. This scholarship program is designed for people who have never farmed before or have operated a farm for less than 10 years. Applications are accepted on

This scholarship fund was established in Henry Kirklin’s honor by the non-profit partners of Columbia’s Agriculture Park: Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Columbia Farmers Market, and Sustainable Farms & Communities. The fund was first seeded by Missouri Foundation for Health, and other private donations in June 2020.


The scholarship program is designed for people who:

  • Have never farmed before or have operated a farm for less than ten years.
  • Identify as Black
  • Are farming or plan to farm in mid-Missouri

While it is not required, special consideration will be given to farmers who plan to market their products at Columbia Farmers Market. For more information on how to become a vendor at CFM visit: https://columbiafarmersmarket.org/how-to/become-a-vendor/.

Application Timeline:

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and grants will be awarded as funding is available. Approved applicants will receive an upfront scholarship check, up to $3,000, to use to help fund their farming business. You may submit one application per calendar year.


Applicants can request a scholarship of up to $3,000. Scholarships can be used to purchase anything listed in the budget of their business plan, with the exception of prior debt or purchases made before the scholarship award date. Examples of allowable costs include (but are not limited to): farmland purchase or rental, tools, seeds, plants, livestock, Columbia Farmers Market membership fees, down payment on a new loan, wages paid to farmhands, and marketing materials. Scholarship winners will be required to complete a survey 6 and 12 months after their award date, and are required to send us photos of how the funds were used to support their operation.

How to Apply:

Download and complete the short application and submit it along with a business plan to billyp@columbiaurbanag.org or mail to Henry Kirklin Scholarship Fund, ℅ CCUA, PO Box 1742, Columbia MO 65205 Your application must include a business plan. Please attach a business plan to this application.

Business and Farm Planning Assistance:

If you need assistance making a plan for your farm business, we have partnered with the Missouri Women’s Business Center (services available to all genders) to provide free business coaching to those interested in applying for this scholarship. In addition to helping you develop a business plan, MWBC’s coaches will provide ongoing business coaching and can connect you to resources like microloans, financing, and other resources.

We have also partnered with Dr. Eleazar Gonzalez at Lincoln University Cooperative Extension he can be contacted at 573-681-5541 or GonzalezE@lincolnu.edu. Dr. Gonzalez can provide applicants with a wide range of farm planning assistance such as: small farm business planning, production education, marketing education, farm financial tools, production cost analysis, and free farm business information.

Why Black Farmers?

The intention of creating this scholarship fund is to support Black farmers in mid-Missouri. The United States was built on the backs of enslaved people. Our country is an agricultural powerhouse and our economy is one of the best in the world today in part because of slavery in the past. Unfortunately, right now, Black Americans do not have a fair share of the wealth that our country has inherited as a result of slavery. In 1910, 14% of farmers were Black, today only 1.3% of farmers are Black, and own only 0.52% of American farmland.

Injustices towards Black Americans have been part of American history for hundreds of years; it is strongly a part of our history. At the start of the Civil War in 1861, there were a total of 885 slaveholding families in Boone County and the US Census listed 5,034 people being held captive as slaves. In the 2017 (most recent) USDA Census of Agriculture there were ZERO Black farmers listed in Boone County.

Who is Henry Kirklin?

A portrait of Henry Kirklin published in The Professional World on December 25, 1903.
A portrait of Henry Kirklin published in The Professional World on December 25, 1903.

In 1858, Henry Kirklin was born into slavery here in Boone County, Missouri, and freed when he was five years old. Kirklin lived in Columbia most of his life. Despite escaping slavery and never attending school, he lived his life as a successful gardener, business owner, agricultural enthusiast, and teacher.

As a young adult, Kirklin worked as a greenhouse supervisor for the University of Missouri’s horticulture department. The head of the horticulture department noticed Kirklin’s horticultural skill and asked him to teach the lab component of some classes. At the time, the University only allowed whites inside of school buildings, so Kirklin taught the white students propagation and pruning outdoors. He described himself as “the only negro who ever taught in the University of Missouri.”

Outside of the University Henry Kirklin was growing food for his farm business. In 1883, Kirklin purchased land on Switzler Street that he used for his home and market garden. He sold, fruits, vegetables, and plant starts around town. Selling at his farm, over the phone, or from his wheelbarrow (and later horse-drawn cart), Kirklin had a reputation for selling only the highest quality produce.

Photo of Henry Kirklin with his produce wagon, which reads “THE PLANT MAN H. KIRKLIN GARDENER” from The State Historical Society of Missouri.
Photo of Henry Kirklin with his produce wagon, which reads “THE PLANT MAN H. KIRKLIN GARDENER” from The State Historical Society of Missouri.

Later in life he won many awards and spoke at conferences across the country. Eager to spread his knowledge he taught at a vocational school for African Americans in Chariton County, Missouri and informally at schools and fairgrounds across the state.

An old newspaper article published in the Columbia Missourian on March 9, 1928 that said, “Boys were urged to make use of every available space for gardening by Henry Kirklin, market gardener, last night at a well-attended meeting of the Douglass School P.-T.A. The subject of this discussion was the beautifying of back yards, and back yard gardening as a profitable engagement. A course in agriculture for Douglass School is to be urged, using the athletic field as an experiment ground.”

Henry Kirklin was an active member of the St. Paul AME Church at the corner of 5th St and Park Ave. His work would still be considered remarkable, if he wasn’t a former slave in the late 1800s. However if you take into account all of the forces working against him during this time, his accomplishments are that much more impressive. Kirklin is a legend when it comes to agricultural education, demonstration, and experimentation in this town. William L. Nelson, a local farmer and politician of the time said of Kirklin, “While denied the privilege of much book learning Henry Kirklin is yet an educated man. The school in which he was educated gives no diplomas, but its course is thorough and the work exacting.” In 1938, Henry Kirklin died at the age of 80, his final resting place was in an unmarked grave in the Columbia Cemetery, until in 2020 a group raised money to erect a headstone at his burial site.


Henry Kirklin Historical Reenactment- Memorial Day 2019


A celebration on Friday, Nov. 6th 2020, the marker was placed on Kirklin’s grave by his admirers from the Boone County Historical Society; Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, Sharp End Heritage Committee, Friends of Historic Columbia Cemetery, and MU’s College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources.

Donate to the Fund

Follow this link to make a donation to the fund with your credit card. Make sure you choose the “Kirklin Scholarship Fund” designation.

Make checks payable to “CCUA” with “Kirklin Scholarship” in the memo line. Mail your check to:

Henry Kirklin Scholarship Fund

c/o CCUA

PO Box 1742

Columbia MO 65205

To learn more about Henry Kirklin and his life:







On Key

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