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Kingsport preparing new home for farmers market

Kevin Castle • Mar 25, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The new location of the Kingsport Farmers Market will soon be prepped and paved for an April 18 opening day on the grounds of the old Quebecor site in downtown.

Officials with the market and the city met Wednesday morning at the site, now a vacant lot at the corner of Center Street and Clinchfield across from the Domtar factory. Chris McCartt, assistant to the city manager, said the site will receive a new layer of asphalt and paint.

That is just phase one of a process that McCartt says will eventually give the market indoor display and consumer space.

“The first phase is (the city) will come in and prepare the parking area, do some paving and some filling in (various sections of the lot), put some parking stripes out there for customer parking, and then prepare the market area,” said McCartt.

“That will just be smoothing out some rough spots on the concrete and then getting the booths laid out so the farmers can come in and set up. ... What we have looked at is a building that connects the former Holliston Mills and the Kingsport Press (for the indoor portion of the Farmers Market). What we’ve looked at is opening that building up.”

McCartt said the city plans to demolish some structures on the mill property, leaving select buildings standing for future development including the farmers market project and potential projects such as a Museum of Industry and History, retail space, a city historical/archival data center, an outdoor courtyard, a performing arts center, and square footage for restaurants.

The two parties had been discussing new retail space for the farmers since TriSummit Bank acquired the former American Electric Power building near the Kingsport Public Library, which included a parking lot that the market used for years.

A proposed expansion by TriSummit Bank would severely limit the amount of space farmers would have to set up shop, which they have done for two days a week from early April to late October.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is also helping with market development in the form of two grants.

The city will invest $16,000 to match capital development funding from agriculture officials totaling $32,000 to purchase garage-style doors for the center, which allow farmers to operate the market in any weather condition.

A second grant of almost $8,900 will support the marketing and retail arm of the market with shopping carts, materials to help recruit new farmers, and advertising dollars to promote the area-grown produce.

Kingsport Farmers Market President Jim LaFollette said Wednesday an organization meeting of farmers signed on for this year’s produce production and selling was held last weekend, and a full array of products will await consumers when the market opens in about three weeks.

“We’re pleased to partner with the city to move into a place where we know we can expand,” said LaFollette.

“It’s going to be all fresh, locally grown produce. We’re going to keep it that way for the fact that people in this area expect products they can depend on. We’ll have plenty of room, and we are just really excited about what the city is doing for us.

“When we open on April 18, at that time we expect (farmers to have on hand) early crops like greens, lettuce and onions. We have farmers that can produce just about anything, but we welcome any farmer who wants to sell that does not have an off-site retail center currently.”

Farmers interested in selling at the market for the 2009 season can contact LaFollette at 357-3897.

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