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July 9, 2014

Farmers’ Market offers something for everyone

Ag initiative taking off

STEARNS —  One of the many events taking place over the holiday weekend was the grand opening of the McCreary Farmers’ Market on Saturday.

    Nearly a dozen local vendors were on hand offering everything from potatoes to chickens to hand-made ornaments. The McCreary County Chamber of Commerce joined in with free watermelon slices and a ribbon-cutting ceremony while Sweet Kreations, Big South Fork Scenic Railway, Pottery by Mehg, Lake Cumberland District Health Department and McCreary County Tourist Commission donated door prizes.

    The event kicked off at 9 a.m. with a special appearance by Edsel Blevins, who worked in the school system for three decades and is best-known for his banjo skills. Blevins played and greeted the crowd in the morning before moving on to the McCreary County Museum where a new exhibit was unveiled Saturday in his honor.

    “I’m very pleased with how it went,” McCreary County Judge-Executive Doug Stephens said of the grand opening. “The farmers’ market not only helps people supplement their income but is becoming quite the social event. That’s what we want — to build community.”

    The market itself is operated by a co-op of local producers with vendors having the option to join or just set up for a day. However, several county and community organizations are working to support the market as part of the larger Grow McCreary County agribusiness plan.

    An important partner has been the Berea-based Grow Appalachia, which recently applied for $77,000 in federal funding from USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program on the county’s behalf to establish a local hub to process and distribute locally produced food items. With a 25 percent in-kind match, the project would be worth some $100,000 over the next two years. Grant announcements are expected in September.

    If McCreary County is awarded that grant or a smaller one, the hub would include a shared-use kitchen, store front and community garden.

    While the former jail facility has been named as a potential site for the commercial kitchen, Judge Stephens said yesterday that other locations are being explored as well.

    “If there is an opportunity to open the jail, we would want to do that as quickly as possible,” he said.

    While some value-added products require processing at an approved commercial kitchen, Deputy Judge Andrew Powell and Economic/ Community Development Director Susan Stephens stressed in a recent farmers’ market meeting that others can be processed at home. More information can be found in the Kentucky Farmers’ Market Manual available on the county’s website.

    In the meantime, organizers are hopeful that the budding interest in locally grown food continues to grow. Since a June 21 “soft opening”, the Farmers’ Market — located off Wilburn K. Ross Highway — has grown from four vendors to 10 with more needed as the season goes on.

    Though the market is scheduled to stay open each Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. each Saturday, more than one vendor has reported selling out within the first couple of hours.

    “The consumers are there,” Deputy Judge Powell said.

    For more information, call Economic and Community Development Director Susan Stephens at 376-9711 or visit the market’s Facebook page and the county website,

 

www.mccrearycounty.com.

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Teresa Phillips

Teresa Phillips

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