Commissioners to look at market expansion

Feb. 03, 2013 @ 09:47 AM

Capitalizing on the success of last season, the Rutherford County Farmers Market is looking to expand.

The Rutherford County Commissioners will consider a $15,000 budget amendment to allow the market to increase in size and add to its hours of operation.

During its last season, the market held hours on Tuesday and Thursday at county-owned property along U.S. 74 near Isothermal Community College. Jeff Bradley, with Cooperative Extension, said that the market would remain in the same location but change its hours and add Saturday to its rotation.

While the hours aren't set, Bradley said that it would likely be Tuesday morning, Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning. The Saturday operation could be held in conjunction with the Southern Growers Association which has held a tailgate market at the Tri-City Mall on Saturdays.

"It's going to work so that we can get the person at home during day and the person that might work and doesn't get off until later in the afternoon," Bradley said.

Bradley said that the market will also start allowing vendor participation from neighboring counties.

"It is about volume," Bradley said. "When you have a wide variety of volume you can attract a wide customer base ... that's the hope."

If the amendment is approved, the market may also take over an online market.

Foothills Connect had started an online farmers market to sell fresh produce to restaurants. Under the proposal the Rutherford County Farmers Market would offer consumer commodity boxes available for purchase online and pick up at the market or, potentially delivered.

"It would be a baby-step proposal to an online market," said Carl Classen, Rutherford County manager.

According to the proposed amendment, the county would spend $3,500 in part-time salaries and benefits, $6,500 in operating supplies and a refrigeration system and, $5,000 for website development.

"This is enhancing the farmers market but, there is a cost to it," Classen said.

Classen added that there will be potential revenue for the county on the sale of the boxes but, that has not been factored into the project because it is unknown how much the sale of those boxes could generate.

"It is just another market," Bradley said. "You are going after a different consumer. It is one that prefers to go on the computer and order their produce and either pick it up or have it delivered."

Last season, the Rutherford County Commission voted to move the farmers market from its previous location on the county fairgrounds in Spindale to the county-owned property along U.S. 74.

Bradley said that the popularity of the market expanded last season, prompting the thought for expansion.

"It is really exciting," Bradley said. "I was excited last year but, I also think there is more room to grow."

Commissioners will open their regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday night. There will be an executive session held at 5 p.m.