Vance County farmers market a long time coming

Apr. 03, 2014 @ 08:43 PM

Community leaders arrived at the ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday offering applause, plaques and congratulations to Pete Burgess, the advisory board member who led the charge for the new facility, and everyone involved in the completion of the Vance County Regional Farmers Market.

“It’s really amazing the level of support we received from the community,” said Paul McKenzie, Vance County Cooperative Extension agent.

His organization, which remains a driving force behind the operations of the facility, hosted the ceremony.

More than 100 people filled the farmers market to witness the facility’s release to the public. Many were optimistic about what it could mean for the region’s economy.

“Vance ranks 88 out of 100 counties in production of fruits and vegetables,” said Dewitt Hardee, director of the N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Trust Fund, which provided more than $100,000 for the market. “I believe that this facility could put us in the top 50 before long.”

Many attendees understood the need for the community to become dedicated to eating foods grown and produced locally.

“It has given me a lot of hope to help me improve my business,” said Ada Clifton, who is interested in being a vendor at the market. At 88 years old, she still makes pies and preserves.

Others sought to bring home the knowledge of where food originates.

“All food doesn’t come from a grocery store,” said Bryant Green, tobacco farmer and board member for the Vance County Farm Bureau. “I hope it can bring some togetherness from the community and help strengthen the county.”

A board member of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, Ernie Averett, said he was eager to join the community in contributing to the county’s economy. The commission already has contributed more than $400,000 to the market.

“I look forward to coming back and buying some vegetables,” he said.

While many crops won’t be available for another few weeks, Burgess stressed the farmers market still “is more than just vegetables.”

“You can have a wedding here,” Burgess said. “You can have a family reunion here. It’s yours, and we want you to use it.”

The Vance County Regional Farmers Market is a four-years-long project that has finally materialized, thanks in large part to Burgess. He was in on the planning stages, tapped by the Farm Bureau board to lead their effort and with McKenzie and support stepped over, around or through hurdles in the project.

“It taught me a lot of patience,” he said. “Things didn’t happen as soon as I wanted them to.”

Burgess, as many speakers attested, was resilient. He pulled together more than 20 companies and organizations to raise more than $850,000 to finish the project.

During the ceremony, Burgess was honored with a proclamation from the county commissioners, and with a plaque to be displayed permanently in the facility’s classroom.

He was cited for his “visionary leadership and relentless support.” He was also recipient of a warm standing ovation.

The Vance County Regional Farmers Market advisory board will take applications for a marketing and operations manager until April 11. Once the position is filled, an opening date will be set.

 

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.