|By TIM THORNBERRY
RUSSELLVILLE, Ky. — Logan County’s Farmers’ Market was on the receiving end of a large check from Agriculture Development Funds delivered by Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher recently for a new, permanent structure.
The $120,000 came from the Farmers’ Market Competitive Grant program with $70,000 being Logan County funds and the remaining $50,000 being state funds.
The local market is one of the oldest in the state - dating back 20 years - and has been an outside market operating in different locations throughout the town until the completion of the new facility just a few weeks ago.
Logan County Extension Agent Chris Milo said the new structure has brought more business to the producers.
“I would say the amount of customers to the market has doubled since moving to the permanent facility,” he said. “The structure helps to present a better opportunity to sell produce and diversify the local farms. It has helped tremendously.”
The number of vendors has increased as well. Milo said producers have grown from 15 in 2005 to 27 this year with a rapid expansion of the market over the last two years.
Fletcher, who chairs the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board (KADB) that oversees grants and loans to projects like this said the money will help local farmers make more from what they grow.
“This funding will offer area farmers additional market outlets, giving both full- and part-time farmers the opportunity to retain more of the retail value of the products they are producing,” said Fletcher.
Not only will the new structure allow for uninterrupted sales during inclement weather, it will provide opportunities to host educational events and expand the product mix to include more horticulture and forage producers, as well.
“The facility had a meeting room built in the front for various activities,” said Milo. “Sometimes the market will run until December, and it would give vendors and customers a chance to come in from the cold to buy and sell.”
The Logan County market is just one of more than 100 markets located all across the state. Both the KADB and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture works closely with those markets through various avenues including the competitive grant program, which was designed for regional and community farmers’ markets across the state.
The program funds are divided into different investment areas. Regional Farmers’ Markets are allocated 25 percent; 65 percent goes for Community Farmers’ Markets, which can only be used for capital expenditures; and 10 percent is allocated for feasibility/business planning for both regional and community markets. The deadline for the second round of the program is Sept. 1.
KDA Commissioner Richie Farmer is encouraging state residents to visit their local market as part of Farmers’ Market Week, Aug. 6-12.
“Farmers’ markets give consumers a place to buy fresh Kentucky Proud fruits and vegetables raised just down the road,” he said. “Many markets also sell meats, sauces, preserves, cut flowers and other products. Farmers’ market customers get to meet the people who produce the food, and they keep their food dollars close to home.”
Janet Eaton, KDA’s farmers’ market program coordinator en-courages consumers to use the markets as a place to educate themselves about various food sources.
“Your local farmers’ market is a great place to teach children about where their food comes from,” she said. “Ask the farmers questions – they are passionate about their goods and would love to talk about them. Look for recipes. Try something new. Above all, enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of your local farmers’ market.”
The University of Kentucky estimated farmers’ market sales at $6-$7 million in 2004, up from $5.4 million in 2003 with 75 percent of Kentucky farmers directly selling more than half of their produce at places like the markets.
Nationwide, the USDA reports that more than 3,800 farmers’ markets operate throughout the country with market sales estimated at more than $1 billion.
According to the KDA, economists estimate that a $100,000 increase in farm sales creates up to five new jobs and generates another $200,000 in economic activity.
“When people buy from farmers’ markets, they add to farmers’ incomes and help them stay in farming instead of selling their land for development,” said Farmer. “It also helps the environment because their food travels a short distance to get to the market.”
For details about Farmer’s Markets visit the KDA website at www.kyagr.com
For more on the Farmers’ Market Com-petitive Grant program visit the Gover-nor’s Office of Agricultural Policy website at http://agpolicy.ky.gov/index.shtml
This farm news was published in the August 9, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.