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Federal Grant Means Frenchtown Farmers' Market Expansion

Silver ovens, stoves and kitchen utensils in an industrial kithcen
Tom Flanigan
Just part of the commercially-certified Kitchen Share facility adjoining the Frenchtown Farmers' Market.

Plans are to become more of a regional resource for producers and consumers.

With the help of a large federal grant, Tallahassee's Frenchtown Farmers' Market is poised to become a regional resource for consumers and producers. In charge of that expansion is Jim Bellamy, executive director of the Frenchtown Neighborhood Improvement Association.
Bellamy said the nearly $245,000 grant came from the United States Department of Agriculture.

"The grant comes out every year; the Farmers' Market Promotional Grant. And we applied for it several years and hadn't gotten it. And this year we did get it."

Bellamy said the initial priority is compiling a local agricultural data base.

"First of all, identify what farmers grow in our area and who the farmers are. We're going to develop a manual resource directory so we'll know what's being grown where and when."

Last year, the Association used another grant to build a gleaming, professional grade kitchen adjacent to the Frenchtown Farmers' Market. Bellamy said farmers will be able to make use of that facility to convert their produce into commercially certified consumer products.

"Since we have the kitchen, we can do value-added stuff. We can take it and cook it up and put it in various kinds of forms; chop it up, bag it up and be able to provide it to consumers the way grocery stores do now."

At the same time, Bellamy said the resources are now available to expand the farmers market concept.

"We also wanted to spread our wings a little bit and create markets in Gadsden and Jefferson counties. We hope we can take advantage of the agriculture in our area that's not being used now. There's a lot of stuff that's being plowed under after the season is over."

That unwanted surplus, much of it due to the sagging restaurant business, can be put to better use, Bellamy believed.

"And in addition to that, we're also going to work with the farmers to help them tighten up their businesses to help them to become more business-savvy. We've got ALCOM Marketing to help us with the PR side of marketing. And we'll have consultants to work with them on finance, bookkeeping, things of that nature."

Other partners in the expansion venture are Sustainable Tallahassee, Capstan Marketing and North Florida Legal Services.