Jonesborough enters partnership with farmers market

Sue Guinn Legg • Nov 11, 2013 at 10:09 PM

The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday voted to enter a partnership with the nonprofit Jonesborough Farmers Market organization to establish a year-round market for locally grown produce at the former Exxon station on the Boone Street corridor into downtown.

The partnership agreement includes the framework for a long-term lease of the town-owned building and provisions through which the town will assist JFM in establishing the new “Boone Street Market.”

The provisions include the town’s assistance with JFM’s application for federal and state grants available to help fund the building’s renovation and purchase needed equipment as well as the town’s help with the renovation work.

The provisions also include the town’s assistance with the market’s financial administration, marketing promotion and, until the market becomes financially self-sufficient, $1 annual rent and payment of half the utilities.

In recommending the agreement, Town Administrator Bob Browning told the board, the partnership’s objectives include the addition of a new business that will add to the town’s sales tax base, increasing sales opportunities to local farmers and providing town residents and visitors ready access to fresh produce and locally produced food products.

According to Browning, the estimated cost of the project, including a commercial kitchen that will be accessible to local food producers as well as other town-operated programs, is $140,000.

The available grant funding includes a $20,000 to $25,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the USDA Office of Rural Development that could be used to purchase equipment and a $50,000 Farmers Markets Development Grant from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for the building’s improvement.

Browning said inmate labor that is being used for several other capital improvement projects in Jonesborough could also be used to renovate the building

In joining Browning in recommending the partnership, Mayor Kelly Wolfe said the market is “exactly the kind of economic development the town needs.”

Wolfe said the positives include “promoting local products, bringing people to town and bringing a new retail industry to town.”

Wolfe noted Jonesborough has already invested significantly in the purchase of the building and construction of its pedestrian plaza and parking area and is in need of “a good anchor for that property.”

With the partnership agreement, the board also approved a motion for the town staff to prepare the lease agreement for the board’s consideration.

Karen Childress, a co-director of the nonprofit JFM that also operates the Saturday morning farmers market in downtown Jonesborough, told the board the market’s target opening date is summer 2014.

Childress said JFM’s board members have visited a similar market in Huntington, W.Va., that finished the past growing season with sales of $39,000 per month.

She said farmers in that area are now building greenhouses in order to have more produce to sell at the market.

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