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Jonesborough Farmers Market expansion moves forward

Madison Mathews • Mar 11, 2013 at 10:19 PM

The Jonesborough Farmers Market could soon greet visitors as they enter the gateway of the historic downtown district.

On Monday evening, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen signed off on a proposal for Mayor Kelly Wolfe and Town Administrator Bob Browning to begin negotiating the possible use of the former Exxon station on Boone Street as a daily extension of the Farmers Market in Jonesborough.

Wolfe and Browning will work with Farmers Market officials to draw up a plan that could expand the market to six days a week.

The town purchased the building in October 2012 with the intent of enhancing the entrance to the downtown area. The former gas station’s canopy was recently removed as part of that process.

“We’ve already made great strides in improving the gateway by simply taking down the canopy. ... When we get done, I believe, with the sidewalk work and with the shrubbery and the fencing that we’re going to do to help buffer the business area there and the alley, it’s going to be even better,” Wolfe said.

Farmers Market leaders approached the town with a proposal to turn the former gas station into a not-for-profit retail space in order to increase sales and income for local farmers, and to offer residents and visitors better access to goods produced in the area.

The proposal includes a retail storefront that would be open daily, a refrigerated and freezer space, a commercial kitchen and seating area, and outdoor space for a tailgate market.

Use of the space would act as a year-round extension of the Farmers Market and not replace the already successful weekend market held in the town.

With the town’s goal of having about 200 visitors a day, Wolfe said having a daily extension of the Farmers Market could be a great benefit to the town, its residents and surrounding farmers.

“During the summer growing season when things are in full swing ... we’re averaging 1,000 people on Saturday morning coming down to our Farmers Market. ... We’ve got a product here in the Farmers Market that not only has passionate, highly-educated folks supporting (it) ... but it’s a proven traffic generator for downtown,” he said.

Alderman Chuck Vest voiced his support of the proposal and asked who would incur the costs associated with installing things like a commercial kitchen at the property.

Wolfe said those are details that he, Browning and Farmers Market officials will work out in their discussions.

“There are grant funds and other funds available to support improvements to farmers markets, so it would be our intention to look at all the available options,” he said.

In other business, the board approved a proposal to pay Norfolk Southern $27,000 for the permit needed to construct a sewer force main under the railroad tracks near the town’s wastewater plant.

Wolfe said the line would complete the second phase of Jonesborough’s sewer expansion project.

Alderman Homer G’Fellers motioned to approve the proposal pending approval by Town Attorney Jim Wheeler.

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