Tennessee USDA Rural Development Director Bobby Goode presents Jonesborough Locally Grown Executive Board Chair Dana York with a proclamation during Monday's event. (Photos by Max Hrenda/Johnson City Press)
JONESBOROUGH — In celebration of a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, government officials and Jonesborough residents gathered to share stories and refreshments inside what is slated to become the area’s first year-round farmers market store.
On Monday afternoon at 101 Boone St., Jonesborough Locally Grown was presented with a $21,250 grant from Tennessee’s division of the USDA’s Rural Development program to be used for the construction of Boone Street Market, which is expected to open sometime in October.
The market, which will offer locally grown food for sale at any point in the year, is a collaborative effort from the town’s government and JLG — a nonprofit group focused on promoting local farmers and the production and sale of locally grown food. Although Mayor Kelly Wolfe had signed the grant agreement with Rural Development on May 29, JLG Executive Director Karen Childress said the event helped recognize the progression of support the market has received, from local farmers market shoppers to the federal government.
“It went from individuals to community to civic groups to businesses to the county ... to state level and now federal level,” Childress said. “We’re just thrilled. Without the whole network, we wouldn’t be here.”
Childress estimated that those financial donations totaled somewhere in the area of $140,000. She also offered a special thanks to the town of Jonesborough for providing the building that will one day house the market.
“It’s so wonderful to have a town that believes in you and jumps in when you say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this idea,’ ” Childress said.
Wolfe, who was also present for Monday’s event, thanked JLG for their efforts in procuring funds for the building, but also thanked the community as a whole for helping with the store’s development.
“We’ve all heard the old saying, there’s no ‘i’ in team; that could not be more appropriate for use in today’s ceremony,” Wolfe said. “This facility, the success of our current farmers market, where you have over 1,000 folks a day visiting Jonesborough, coming and spending dollars buying locally grown items ... is a testament to the success of a team effort.”
Wolfe also offered special thanks to Bobby Goode, director of Tennessee’s USDA Rural Development, who he credited with assistance in multiple town projects.
“So many of the things that we’ve done here in Jonesborough over the last 20 (or) 30 years would not have been possible without your agency’s participation,” he said. “We say thank you for helping make Jonesborough the wonderful place that it is.”
With regard to the agency’s most recent endowment to Jonesborough, Childress said the money would be used for the purchase of an 8-foot-by-15-foot walk-in cooler, a three-door glass display freezer and, if funding allows, a kitchen range.
“All of these are big items you can’t just find on the side of the road,” she said.
The walk-in cooler will consume the most time of all that equipment, Childress said. Once a cooler has been selected — and approved by Rural Development — Childress said it would take anywhere from four to six weeks to have it assembled. She added that its construction, and subsequent installation, is the primary reason that the market’s opening date had yet to be determined.
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, who represents Tennessee’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives, was also on hand for the event, and commended the town for utilizing a previously abandoned building — which had formerly housed an Exxon gas station — to serve a new purpose.
“What we see so much are old beautiful buildings getting bulldozed and getting replaced by something else,” Roe said. “To take this building in Jonesborough, which is in a premier spot, and rehab this building and keep it open for six days a week is a great idea.”
Roe added that he had a personal interest in promoting locally grown food, as well.
“I’m never going to apologize for supporting our agricultural community, because I like to eat,” Roe said.
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