JASPER, Tenn. — Marion County leaders are pushing for a large-scale expansion of the farmers market along U.S. Highway 41 in Kimball, Tenn.
Commissioner Gene Hargis said the market has $19,000 in grant money right now to spend on new construction.
"We've been operating out from under a shed now for four or five years, and it's just not adequate spacing and the tables are in bad shape," he said.
Hargis said he wants to use the money to build a larger concrete slab on the market's current site and put a roof over it, but University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Agent Vicki Lofty said it's possible the county could double the money it has for construction if it moves quickly.
There is more matching grant money available, she said, and the county could be eligible for it.
"This does not come up every year," she said. "This is the year it's due, and it's between $10,000 and $100,000."
Lofty said the county could use its existing $19,000 as the matching money and apply for another $19,000 to use on the farmers market, Lofty said.
Commissioner Mack Reeves said the board has "missed the chance" to apply for funds to build a farmers market in the past, and it can't let that opportunity slip away again.
Getting the additional grant money would allow the building of something much greater than what county leaders have in mind right now, he said.
"We really need to put an effort together to try to get as much of this grant money as we can, so we can build a nice facility that we can be proud of," Reeves said. "We've got to move fast."
The board voted unanimously last week to have its finance committee study the grant opportunity so it can make a recommendation at the next meeting Feb. 24.
The deadline for the grant application is early March, Lofty said.
The board also agreed to put the farmers market under the control of its conservation committee, which meets more regularly than its agricultural committee.
Moving it to the conservation committee, which also oversees Marion County Park, will help get something done, Hargis said.
The farmers market will expand into a regional organization and include Grundy, Sequatchie and north Jackson counties, he said.
"The problem we've had is not the customer base," Hargis said. "In the past, it's that we've not had the supply to keep up with the demand of the customers."
Growing into a regional farmers market will help meet that demand, he said.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.