ALPENA - The Alpena Farmers Market has been very popular over the years among the agriculture community and people who enjoy buying the fresh produce. The support for the market is so strong that an effort is under way that could see the market expand and open to the public year-round.
During Monday's Alpena Municipal Council meeting, farmers market President J.B. Cook told the board of intentions to apply for grants and to fundraise enough money to enclose much of the current facility and operate through the winter months.
"Last year we added on to the structure and made it wider, from 15 feet to 30 feet wide, and it sheltered the customers and created more space, and on any market day we can see between 500 and 1,000 people there," Cook said. "Now our goal is to make a year-round market and have an adaptable structure that will allow us to do that. It will be enclosed with heat, running water, insulation, lighted, sewer, bathroom, everything we would need. We want this to be the best small town farmers market in the state."
News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Alpena Farmers Market President J.B. Cook explains some of the key features that plan to be made to the current market facility. The plan is for the place to be enclosed with heat, water and plumbing and to remain open throughout the year.
Cook said the cost of the project should land somewhere between $170,000 and $200,000 and hopes to fund it by acquiring grant money and donations through fundraising. He said the Downtown Development Authority also is backing the project and will help the market be able to qualify for funds through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
"The MEDC helped fund a similar project in Gaylord by giving $170,000, and the Gaylord community funded the other $30,000," Cook said. "We feel our proposal is even better than the one they had and think we'll be able to get more for our buck. The Michigan Department of Agriculture is also offering grants. We will be trying to raise the match money over the course of the next two years."
As a way to help raise money to offset the contribution required on most grants, the organization has developed a slogan, and a logo is in the works. Cook said shirts and other items will be available for purchase to help support the effort soon. He said the logistics of obtaining state and federal money will also move forward soon.
"The new slogan is Let's Turn Up the Beet and we will be selling buttons, shirts, bags and will have a local artist do the print," Cook said. "We would like to have the grant application sured up by November of this year, and its decision should come early next year. I hope we can break ground a year from this spring."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.