SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Getting to know your neighbors may be as easy as getting a picnic table, painting it turquoise, and creating a neighborhood gathering spot in your front yard.

Sounds a bit crazy, but according to David Burton, a University of Missouri Extension community development specialist, the turquoise table movement that began in 2018 is still going strong nationwide.

“The movement is intended to bring people together and turn neighbors into friends,” said Burton. “Our Greene County Extension Council is trying to expand the number of turquoise tables in our county this year with a pilot grant program in the Republic area.”

Burton says he first learned of the movement when someone recommended a neighboring focused book titled “The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard.”

“Turquoise Table” author Kristin Schell had moved and was desperate to slow down and build connections in her new community.

Schell had an ordinary picnic table delivered to her house but could not get it into the backyard.

So she put the table in her front yard, painted it turquoise, and began inviting friends and neighbors to join her. Life changed in her community, and she wrote a book about it.

Some communities have funded turquoise tables in public places. The most effective tables are placed with families that will make them part of their front yard lifestyle.


Burton is hopeful about seeing some tables pop up in Republic and other parts of Greene County.

“The extension council and I hope our neighborhood-focused grant will stir up some interest in more people getting and using their own table,” Burton said. “According to the website supporting the book, turquoise tables exist in all 50 states already.”

In Republic, the Greene County Extension Council has funded two turquoise tables inside the Owen Park Neighborhood this year. The plan is to highlight the tables as gathering spots and collect data on their use and effectiveness over the next two years, according to Burton.

The tables were delivered to yards on March 24. Over the next few weeks, Burton arranged times to meet the families, paint their tables, and affix an MU Extension nameplate. The tables were completed in time to kick off the Lawn Art With Neighbors exhibit on April 22.

One of the first tables requested and set up in the Owen Park area was for Ben Pearcy who lives along Matteson Street. Pearcy says his family already spends a lot of time outdoors playing basketball and doing other activities.

“If having a table in the front yard helps our neighbors gather and connect, then I think that is wonderful,” said Pearcy.

Xu and Megan Chen live on Lee Street in Republic. They say the extension council grant for a turquoise table in their front yard came at a great time. As first-generation immigrants in the United States they do struggle with neighbor connections.

“I like this picnic table idea so much. I have an open yard with a garden and a greenhouse. I always want to invite neighbors to visit us, build our friendship, and share our life. I hope there can be a good way to make my life full of love and shareable with others,” said Chen.

There is also nn existing turquoise table along Main Street in Republic that owner Hannah Runkle-Caudle inherited from her mother.

“The table is especially popular during the Christmas parade, but it is used other times too,” said Runkle-Caudle.


Dr. Sarah Massengale, a state extension community development specialist at University of Missouri St. Louis, worked on a turquoise table project with MU Extension in Dent County.

“Residents of Salem had a visioning process, and one of the things that came out was that it is hard to connect when you are a new person in a community,” said Massengale.

The visioning group decided to use turquoise tables to help people connect with services and resources in the community. Donors purchased and placed three turquoise picnic tables, two of which went on the square near the county courthouse.

“We ran some campaigns to encourage people in the downtown area to take lunch at these tables and build connections,” said Massengale. “We saw these tables as a small step toward building connections. That is what we need to be building in our communities.”

In Springfield, the Drew Lewis Foundation tried something similar by placing a turquoise table outside their offices a few years ago. The goal was to use the table to foster conversations with clients and others who visited the facility.


In Republic, the Greene County Extension Council choose to go with southern pine wooden picnic tables from Lowes. They are paintable and can be delivered.

According to the Turquoise Table website, the recommended paint is Sherwin Williams “Nifty Turquoise” SW 6941.

Once painted and placed in the front yard, find ways to spend time at the table. Family meals and morning coffee can both lead to neighbor connections

Burton says MU Extension has asked each family receiving a table to communicate quarterly about the impact of the table.

“In Greene County, we hope to see these tables turn into gathering spots for the neighborhood,” said Burton. “With some time and research from these pilot tables, we will learn some lessons that can be applied across the region and increase the level of neighborliness in a community.”

A website for turquoise tables exists, although no new information is being posted.

“MU Extension supports the projects like our turquoise tables because we know that social connections are essential to creating and improving communities,” said Burton. “Building those relationships is not something you get can pay someone to do. You have to make the time to be available and interruptible, but the dividends are priceless.”


Neighboring is the art and skill of building relationships with the people who live in the closest proximity to you. Being an engaged neighbor has health benefits, leads to reductions in crime, reduces loneliness, improves communities, improves your quality of life, and helps to create neighborhoods that are clean, safe and friendly.

University of Missouri Extension is at the forefront of a national movement that recognizes the importance of neighboring in community development. MU Extension programs like "Neighboring 101" and "Neighborhood Labs" and annual neighboring like Missouri Good Neighbor Week, help to raise awareness about the importance of being an engaged neighbor.

To learn more about our Engaged Neighbor Program or the impact of neighboring, go to or contact David Burton at or (417) 881-8909. "Becoming an Engaged Neighbor" can also be found on Facebook.