By Lynn West
New Albany Gazette
NEW ALBANY – New Albany is the newest beneficiary of a federal effort to mix locally grown foods with economic development.
Representatives from the Appalachian Regional Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture were on hand Tuesday to award a Livable Communities grant to improve the local farmers’ market.
New Albany was one of only nine winners from among 63 applicants in 13 states. Aberdeen was another.
The grant was awarded to further develop New Albany’s Biscuits and Jam Farmers’ Market by providing technical assistance to determine the best needs to improve the event. Once those needs have been determined, ARC will provide funds to implement the plan up to $20,000.
Some suggestions from landscape architect Sam Creekmore include pavilions for programs and gatherings, bike and walking paths to the Park Along the River, outdoor gathering and art areas and locations for various special programs, small boat river access, a river overlook and more organized parking. Landscaping and lighting would be used to enhance the character of the farmers’ market area rather than change it.
ARC’s federal co-chair, Earl Gohl, his chief of staff, Guy Land, and Matt Dalbey who is the director of EPA’s Office on Sustainable Communities, presented the grant. Also on the program were ARC State Program Manager Mike Armour and Bill Renick from Three Rivers Planning and Development District.
“My job is not to tell you what to do. It is to listen and learn what your dream is and then determine how to get it done,” Gohl said. “You have work to do. You must put pencil to paper.”
The local market had been held near the courthouse and at the fairgrounds but Sugaree’s owner Mary Jennifer Russell’s allowing her property downtown beside the Tallahatchie River to be used for an expanded market has helped the event grow dramatically over the past two years.
The grant awarded to the city of Aberdeen, the only other Mississippi winner, will be used to study converting an old depot into a public cannery and the feasibility of a farmers’ market.