Parks and recreation department leaders are actively pursuing a manager for Zebulon’s first farmers market, but they have yet to determine where the market will be held.
If the opinions expressed by several elected officials at a meeting in August are any indication, however, the market will not be located in front of town hall.
“You’re going to have a hard time convincing me to have a farmers market on the front lawn,” Commissioner Dale Beck said at the meeting after Parks and Recreation Director Greg Johnson gave an update on grant funding that is making the market possible.
Mayor Bob Matheny agreed with Beck’s sentiments.
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Matheny said he and Johnson discussed the option of using the area behind town hall but that he didn’t think that was a good move because there isn’t enough visibility in that space for a market that needs to be seen to succeed.
“Very simply put, I don’t think the front lawn is the place for it,” Beck said in a follow-up interview last week. “I know it needs exposure, but I don’t want to drive by every weekend and see a market on the front lawn.
“The events we have on the front lawn every so often I don’t mind, but I don’t think it should be used every weekend or even every other weekend. It’s still the seat of the government, and in my opinion it’s not supposed to be used like that.”
Beck thinks making downtown the home for the farmers market, which could open as early as April of next year, could kill two birds with one stone.
“That would be convenient for the merchants,” Beck said. “That would help them bring people downtown on a Saturday and would give the farmers market exposure, which it needs. I want it to be successful.”
Johnson said he didn’t really have his heart set on holding the market at town hall – on any side of the building.
“We just knew that was a good place and a lot of people do like that idea, but three of the members of the town board spoke out against that,” he said. “I like the idea of doing it (at town hall), but there’s a good argument that you don’t want a weekly activity going on at your town hall location.”
Town staff has recently put out feelers in the downtown area and has asked the Zebulon Chamber of Commerce to join the site search.
Johnson wants to keep the location south of U.S. 64/264, naming locations like Gannon Avenue, the town core, the community center and town parks as options. He’s hoping to decide on a location within the next few months, but isn’t rushing the process.
“It’s going to be successful in some place,” Johnson said. “We’re going to take everything into account and make a good decision on where it will be most successful.”
A three-year, $210,000 grant awarded in July by the John Rex Endowment is being used to help create a Greenway Master Plan for the town and establish the farmers market.
The grant will cover pay for a year-round, part-time market manager for three years at $18,000 per year.
Johnson doesn’t have a deadline for filling the position, but said he doesn’t intend to wait too long. He said he’s already met with a couple candidates and has other meetings lined up.
Parks and recreation leaders want the market to become self-sustaining and continue to operate once the three-year grant funding dries up.
“We’d need some sort of board of volunteers to maintain the policies and make it happen,” Johnson said.