The effort to build a permanent farmers market and community kitchen in Pikeville, Tenn., got high marks last week from a leading official with the Appalachian Regional Commission.
ARC federal co-Chairman Earl F. Gohl said teamwork, energy and vision are the most promising elements going behind plans in the Bledsoe County seat.
Gohl visited Pikeville last Monday to see how the two-pronged project he called "impressive" is progressing.
"These are great ideas," Gohl said of plans funded in 2013 through the Appalachian Livable Communities program, administered by the ARC, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The farmers market site next door to the courthouse "is really going to complement the downtown and give our growers a great opportunity to do some direct sales," he said.
Tying the market to the community kitchen -- a processing facility for local residents and farmers to use for activities such as canning and preserving foods -- will engage the agricultural community in the concept, he said.
"It helps the downtown, it provides families with a resource and it helps growers, three very important elements to a (successful) farmers market," he said, noting that the community kitchen plan is still developing.
"What we really try to do is get folks to develop or redevelop their farmers market in their downtown area," he said. "The difference in Pikeville is you have the city and county so closely aligned."
County Mayor Bobby Collier said a big step toward success is securing local support from the agricultural community.
"We have some asking, 'When's that thing going to open up? I want to participate,'" Collier said.
But he admits there are some naysayers, too.
Farmers come by their "show me it works" attitude honestly, and they won't invest in something that won't stand up for the long term, he said.
"Farmers want proof," he said. They'll have more confidence in a farmers market once clear guidelines and rules of operation are issued, Collier said.
Collier and Pikeville Mayor Phil Cagle believe the farmers market -- to be modeled after a pavilion at Boy Scouts of American's Latimer High Adventure Reservation in neighboring Van Buren County -- could become the jewel of Pikeville's downtown revitalization efforts.
The $130,000-$140,000 farmers market, including $116,000 in grant money, could be under construction by August, Cagle said.
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569.