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Looking to expand

McCreary County Farmers Market asks for federal funding to relocate/expand

By Eugenia Jones

The McCreary County Farmers Market took a bold step during the February Fiscal Court meeting by becoming one of the first to ask for funding from the County’s federal, COVID-19 related American Rescue Plan Act revenue.

Representing the McCreary County Farmer’s Market, Larry King presented a proposal seeking funding for $325,000 to relocate and expand the local farmers market.  The following items are key components of the proposed expansion/relocation project.

• The project seeks to acquire the former supermarket building across from the bank in downtown Whitley City at a cost of $165,000.  The project is designed to serve as a revitalization project for the downtown area and provide year-round space for the market.  Purchase of a building will allow extended or year round operation rain/shine and will also allow the farmers market to serve as an anchor for downtown revitalization, tourism, and expansion of the local arts and crafts industry.

• $100,000 is requested to revamp the building including installation of a certified kitchen for processing of food products.  The kitchen will be rented on a first come/first serve basis with funds going back into an operations fund.  Cold storage equipment will also be added to the facility allowing for the storage and marketing of produce and meat products.

• $10,000 to provide grants up to $500 for individual producers/vendors under a proposal system to help with purchase of materials and tools to help ensure that local farmers market vendors can provide the county with fresh locally grown produce and products.

• $50,000 to cover the first year(s) start up and operational cost and to provide a small stipend for the market manager to provide oversight of the operation.  As the market continues to grow, it will transition over to self-sufficiency based on vendor dues, space rental, sponsors and other fund generating activities.

King noted the proposal clearly meets the guidelines and intent of the American Rescue Plan Act.  He observed the expansion and relocation of the market will greatly improve the county’s ability to meet the community’s needs during this time of food shortages and supply chain issues.  Additionally, an enhanced location will increase net profit for local farmers and artisans.  Furthermore, the county will benefit from having a revitalized downtown and convenient tourism attraction.

King noted McCreary County was one of the last counties in Kentucky to establish a farmers market. During the eight years of the McCreary County Farmers Market’s existence, it has continued to grow and last year, had one of the highest return percentages of senior food vouchers in the state.  The numbers of vendors and buyers also continues to climb.  

King noted surrounding communities have made substantial investments in their farmers markets (Somerset/$500,000, Corbin/$660,000.)  

Several members of the McCreary County Farmers Market attended the Fiscal Court meeting for King’s presentation.  Several letters of support have also been submitted.  The Fiscal Court has agreed to study the proposal with official action on funding anticipated at a future meeting.

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