New farmers market begins to take shape

Sep. 04, 2013 @ 08:57 PM

At the site of Vance County’s new farmers market, workers are moving more than just dirt.

After a couple weeks of construction, the concrete foundation is laid, slabs of sheet metal siding are in place and white slices of fiberglass insulation line the bare wall frames of the 7,500-square foot building off South Beckford Drive.

“We are extremely pleased with the way construction is progressing,” said Paul McKenzie.

McKenzie is a county agriculture extension agent who has been working on this project for the past four years.

“It’s kind of amazing to actually see it take shape,” he said.

Pete Burgess, a board member of the Farm Bureau, said the Golden LEAF Foundation recently turned down the county’s request for $182,000 in funding. He said they are still waiting to hear back on a $100,000 request from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, which has already awarded the county $400,000.

The new market provides 18 vendor spaces, and McKenzie said there could be more than 18 vendors if farmers choose to use the open space surrounding the structure.

He hopes the new facility can serve the community in other ways, such as a place for group meetings, family reunions or equipment safety training for farmers.

The structure contains about 1,500 square feet for restrooms, an office, a storage room and small meeting room adjacent to the main market area.

McKenzie said he anticipates construction to finish by mid-November, with a grand opening for the market in early spring 2014.

Residents at the senior citizen community Lula’s Landing, which sits directly behind the construction site, are looking forward to the farmers market.

“I’m excited about it,” said resident Ray Green. “I can’t wait to be able to walk there.”

Gloria Hawkes, who has lived at Lula’s Landing for three years, said she has watched the project develop.

“I think it will be an asset, I really do,” she said. “It will be so convenient to get fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Agricultural Technician Wayne Rowland said the vendors at the two existing markets are also eager to for the new market to open, despite having a difficult season. The current market is open on Wednesdays at the Henderson Family YMCA and on Saturdays at the City Operations Center on Beckford Drive.

“This year has been one of the hardest years to garden because of cool, wet conditions,” he said. “It is hard to get vegetables to germinate and also with the tremendous amount of rain we had, some of the seeds just got washed away.”

Rowland said it remains to be seen if the two existing markets will continue to operate.

“It depends on what the vendors want,” he said. “Before we open the other market, we will be in communication with all the vendors and see what they want to do.”

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.