RED SPRINGS — As the season for fresh grown fruits and vegetables approaches, the town’s long-awaited open-air farmers market is ready for business.
James Bennett, Red Springs town manager, said last week that an official grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony for the market on West Fourth Avenue will be held at 10 a.m. on May 24. An open-air farmers market for the community has been discussed since 2014.
Bennett said the market is being named for John M. McNeill, the town’s mayor for eight years and a town commissioner for 34 years before that. It will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and 8 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays.
“We want all of our local farmers to participate. It only cost $3 a day,” Bennett said. “Those vendors interested should call me at 910-843-5849.”
McNeill on Friday said he is very happy to see the farmers market finally becoming reality.
“This will be a wonderful addition to our town for both those who are selling fresh fruits and vegetable and for those who are customers wanting to buy fresh produce,” McNeill said. “…We want to promote good eating habits and a healthy lifestyle and this will allow our citizens easier access to fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown locally.”
According to McNeill, the market also has the potential to serve as a “focal point” and gathering place for community members.
“It can be used by churches or other groups and organizations looking for a place to rent to hold a picnic or for other purposes,” he said.
The open-air farmers market includes a 3,000-square-foot building. The building is 30 feet wide and 20 feet tall with open sides to allow farmers and produce sellers to drive their vehicles into the building for easier setup.
The building is handicap accessible and includes bathrooms. The parking lot is currently gravel, but plans are to pave it.
McNeill said the entire construction project cost a little more than $107,000, with $99,000 of the project being paid for through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The town has already filed another grant application with the USDA to pay for Phase II of project construction, according to McNeill.
“The building is very attractive,” he said. “We now have an application filed for Phase II which includes closing the building in with glass and paving the parking lot.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.