Warren County to use grant funds to develop farmers’ market

Warren County to use grant funds to develop farmers’ market

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  • December 31, 2022
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Dec. 30—WARRENTON — Warren County Commissioners have finalized the purchase of the Warren County Fairgrounds on West Ridgeway Street, to convert it into a permanent home for the county’s farmers market.

The county is acquiring the property from the Warren County Fair Association.

It used funding from a $300,000 Rural Transformation Grant awarded by the N.C. Department of Commerce back in July. The structure cost $225,000, leaving $75,000 for the engineering, planning and potential upgrading necessary to utilize the building.

The Farmers’ Market Project Specialized Committee, a group of 22 farmers, farmers’ market supporters and others with a vested interest in the project, has been trying to find a home for the market since the county received the grant.

The next step for the FMPSC is working with engineers to hammer out the plan for the building. It’s old but still user-friendly, complete with needed facilities such as restrooms, said Crystal Smith, director of Warren County Cooperative Extension.

A lack of a building hasn’t stopped the farmers’ market from opening at temporary locations, though there are challenges in that, Smith said.

Outdoor markets are subject to weather, though that hasn’t seemed to stop the vendors showing up each week. They’ve recently been meeting in the Health Department’s parking lot, which has increased the market’s visibility, number of sales and support from the community, Smith said.

Providing the market with a roof and four walls would be a “win-win” for local farmers and consumers, Smith said. The building would give customers greater access to locally-grown goods, as well as more flexibility in how they choose to pay for them. Part of the plan is for vendors to have access to Wi-Fi, so they can accept bank or electronic benefit transfer cards.

The building will also allow for growers in the community “a longer and more diverse revenue stream,” county officials said in a news release on Friday.

“These are some exciting opportunities that we are looking forward to,” Smith said.

The county also plans on using the property on West Ridgeway Street for events such as “cooking classes, weight management promotional activities and gardening how-to sessions” the news release read.

For now, nothing is set in stone, Smith noted.

The 2017 U.S. Department of Agriculture Census noted that Warren County saw a 4% increase in its number of farms and a 56% increase in the market value of products sold since 2012. Farm-related income grew 91% from 2012 to 2017. Also, 94% of the county’s farms are family-owned, and 10% sell directly to consumers.

Around 17% of the county’s farms are operated by farmers of color, 38% by women.

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