Farmers market scores $75k for shelter

Anthony Gonzalez Staff Reporter

November 6, 2013

RALEIGH — The Elkin Farmers Market has received a $75,000 grant from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission (NCTTFC).

The farmers market will use the funds to construct a new community open-air shelter that will serve the current and future market vendors.

The shelter will be constructed in the parking lot of the town government complex in downtown Elkin where the market currently takes place under farmers’ tents.

“The rural economy and many communities in North Carolina continue to face challenges in a post-tobacco buyout era,” said Bill Teague, the Commission’s chairman. “Elkin is committed to providing a practical and appealing shelter that can serve the community in many ways.”

“Some of our market visitors come with strollers, wheelchairs and canes. Improved parking lot conditions is our goal for everyone when they come to the market next summer,” said Laura Gaylord, Elkin’s Main Street and community manager. “The town and the Main Street Advisory Board appreciates and supports the local farmers and their contribution to healthy eating habits in our community, which has become a huge success over the past year. Vendors and residents have even inquired about extending the market into October, which is something we may consider for the 2014 season.”

According to Gaylord, the farmers market experienced 300 percent growth during the 2013 season. Farmers asked the town of Elkin to extend the market into October next year.

“Vendor participation was approximately six to eight vendors per weekend in 2012, and at one point, during the peak of the 2013 season, we had 21 vendors set up in the Town Hall parking lot,” said Gaylord.

Elkin town officials weighed in saying Gaylord and the Main Street Advisory Board have worked hard to enhance and grow the farmers market. “It shows in the number of visitors to the market and the positive comments passed on to us,” said Leslie Schlender, Elkin’s economic development director.

“Receiving this grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission will further build on the community’s desire to both support local foods and farmers, as well as create a wonderful weekly event for residents and visitors to enjoy. Already the farmers are asking to extend the market into the Fall for next year and the shelter that will be enabled by this grant money compliments that perfectly,” said Schlender.

Renovations to the existing parking lot will need to happen in order to receive the grant. The town of Elkin would need to pave the public parking lot to improve conditions for the market attendees before the shelter is installed.

Elkin officials considered paving the parking lot this year, but nixed the expenditure due to budget constraints.

When asked if the paving project would be considered in the next fiscal budget, the town manager supported the idea.

“It will definitely be front and center in my priority of capital items,” said Town Manager Lloyd Payne.

The General Assembly created the NC Tobacco Trust Fund Commission in 2000 to help soften the financial impact to farmers and tobacco-related businesses caused by the sharp decline of tobacco in the agricultural economy. The commission’s funding comes from a set appropriation of monies paid by cigarette manufacturers under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement to the state. Since 2002, the NCTTF has awarded over 200 grants to public and nonprofit agencies that meet the goals of strengthening the rural and tobacco-dependent economies of North Carolina

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 835-1513 or email agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.