News Column

Fayetteville officials plan to expand downtown farmers' market site

July 8, 2014

By Andrew Barksdale, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.



July 08--Fayetteville officials plan to expand a downtown site where farmers and craft makers sell their products.

Within two weeks, the city plans to temporarily close one block of Franklin Street and one block of Ray Avenue next to the Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum.

The closures would only be Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, when two markets are selling a menagerie of fruit and vegetables, jams, breads, jewelry, water colors, pottery and soaps.

The idea, city officials said at a meeting Monday, is to create more room for farmers to sell their produce from the back of their pickups parked in the closed-off streets.

And the city plans to rechristen the site the "Fayetteville Market" on signs that will go up with the barricades, along with detour signs directing traffic to Russell Street one block over.

Officials hope the expansion will help heal a rift among some members of the two markets, which have different rules on locally grown produce, and entice more farmers to come back downtown.

The two groups are the loosely organized City Market at the Museum, which has no restrictions on where produce is grown, and the county-oriented Farmers Market Association, which limits produce to within 50 miles of Fayetteville.

Some association members don't want to sell their locally grown products next to City Market vendors who may have purchased the same type of produce in another state.

Cumberland County Commissioner Jimmy Keefe announced at Monday's meeting the Farmers Market Association is planning to set up a pop-up tent market at the commissary on Fort Bragg soon, but he thought there would be enough support among the association to continue setting up twice a week at the transportation museum.

"We can try that for a year, and get everyone comfortable with it," Keefe said, referring to the expanded site downtown.

Both markets have been operating side by side at the transportation museum since 2011, although participation by the Farmers Market Association has dwindled this year.

In May, the association began having a pop-up tent market in the Bronco Square shopping center on Murchison Road.

Based on Monday's discussion, it appears a consultant's recommendation to move the traditional farmers market of selling produce from the grounds of the transportation museum to the underused ground floor of the nearby Franklin Street parking deck is off the table.

The main reason, according to Deputy City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney, is the complicated federal requirements that would have to be followed because the city used tax-exempt bonds to help pay for the parking deck. The Farmers Market Association, for instance, would have to sign a lease with the city and pay an undetermined amount of fees for use of the garage, she said.

The idea would require further research by the city's bond lawyers, and any lease would need approval by the City Council, which doesn't meet again until August. It's unlikely that such an arrangement could be made for this growing season, Small-Toney said.

Keefe had another reason for wanting to keep the farmers market downtown: the county's Health Department has until August to spend the remaining funds -- how much, officials at Monday's meeting didn't know -- of a federal health-promotion grant that could be used to advertise the farmers market or pay for tents and tables.

Mayor Nat Robertson, who attended the meeting, told the group he thought closing Franklin Street, even temporarily, would be too disruptive to local businesses. City employees said they could close Ray Avenue at first, and leave Franklin Street open, if there wasn't enough demand.

Robertson said he supports relocating the farmers market to the parking deck, but he wasn't sure if a majority of the City Council felt the same way.

Staff writer Andrew Barksdale can be reached at barksdalea@fayobserver.com or 486-3565.

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(c)2014 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

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Source: Fayetteville Observer (NC)


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