The Warren County Farmers Market is closer to becoming a reality, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Tobacco Trust Fund.
Danylu Hundley, chairperson of the Warren County Growers Association, said when the county incorporated into its strategic plan having a permanent home for the county’s only farmers market, it was a game-changer.
“I was on the committee that was formed to seek funding for a permanent structure for the farmers market,” Hundley said in a recent telephone interview.
This 20-member committee divided itself into three subcommittees, and Hundley chaired the funding subcommittee. The other subcommittees looked into finding a location for the local market, as well as types of structures that other markets use.
Warren County got $300,000 from the N.C. Department of Commerce’s distribution of American Rescue Plan funds in July 2022, which was used to purchase the Warren County Agriculture Fairgrounds.
Hundley said having a site for a farmers market made their application to the Tobacco Trust Fund more attractive. “I’ve been in touch with the Tobacco Trust Fund for years,” Hundley explained. “The sticking point was we didn’t own any property.”
This property provides plenty of space for parking and for the proposed 9,000 square foot structure, which most likely will be a pavilion-style building – open sides with a deep overhang to allow vendors protection from the elements.
According to information on the Tobacco Trust Fund website, the permanent area will also provide an office for creating a new farmers market manager.
The open-air pavilion with attached indoor space will allow for COVID-safe practices in the future.
The farmers market has been located in several different locations, including bank parking lots to, most recently, the Warren County Health Department.
Hundley said Warren County Manager Vincent Jones suggested the market set up shop at the health department. “It was the first time we ever really thought about growing,” she said. “We were able to see that with more space, we could have more vendors,” Hundley added.
Having a permanent location will help vendors and customers as well. In addition to being able to use EBT to purchase local produce, meat, eggs and more, the market facility will be used to host health education events such as cooking classes, weight management activities and gardening sessions.
“Warren County has a rich agrarian history that we are proud of,’ said Jones, adding that the farmers market “will allow small to large farmers a market for their goods and provide our residents and neighbors with locally grown, fresh food that lessens the impact of food deserts in some areas.
The county also intends to reactivate the former fairgrounds space for community use including private events, public gatherings, festivals, and other community-oriented activities.
“A well-developed market can also serve as a tourism draw, as well. The recent holiday market saw over 500 visitors to the market in the heart of the town of Warrenton. We think this only means positive things to come,” Jones said.
Paul McKenzie, interim director of the Warren County Cooperative Extension, said the committee has been working for about 18 months to make the dream a reality.
“We’ve had great support from the county manager (and) county commissioners,” McKenzie said. “We’ve had great support all along.”
For Hundley, it’s important to have a farmers market close to where the produce comes from. “We live in a farming community,” she said.