Saturday, June 7, 2003

Funding for market sought

Leaders ask for $5M in tobacco settlement money

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Supporters of a proposed $10 million Northern Kentucky Regional Farmers Market selling everything from Kentucky-raised bison and goat meat to locally grown vegetables and flowers are seeking $5 million in tobacco settlement funds for the project.

George Heeger, chairman of the Northern Kentucky Regional Farmers Market, said the venture would have many winners and no losers.

"The farmer has a new market to take his diversified products to, which means he can stay in the farming business," Heeger said. "The customer gets fresh produce. And the city of Covington and Kenton County benefit through the new jobs the project will generate."

Local farmers market supporters should know by mid-July if their request for the tobacco money is okayed, Heeger said.

Kentucky requires that half of the federal tobacco settlement money from cigarette manufacturers be set aside for projects to help farmers find new outlets that would make up for lost tobacco revenues. Besides the tobacco settlement money, Northern Kentucky farmers market supporters will seek financing from grants, foundations, corporate sponsors and local governments.

In an e-mail sent this week to Covington officials and neighborhood activists, Rachel Hastings of the Covington Community Center said the tobacco money is crucial to the farmers market that's been two years in the making. She urged supporters to contact Northern Kentucky state legislators before the local application is submitted to the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board next Thursday.

"This is going to be the first major retail development built in Covington in decades,'' said Tom West, a community planner with KZF design, and a member of the Covington Business Council.

Heeger said the market is expected to create 235 to 255 new full- and part-time jobs, both at the market and on producers' farms. More than 100 producers from 10 counties - Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Mason, Pendleton and Owen - will participate in the project.

The indoor-outdoor market would include vendors and specialty-food sellers with traditional produce stands. It would be centrally located, safe, accessible to a "high density daytime population" and would offer ample parking, supporters said.

City Commission and Kenton County Fiscal Court have agreed to acquire the market site as their contribution to the project, market supporters said. The farmers market would occupy half a block between Sixth and Seventh streets on Scott Boulevard between the Kenton County Public Library and the post office. The area includes the Point Pavilion, Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken, and the Dressman Health Center. The project would not include the Normac office building at the corner of Seventh Street and Scott Boulevard.


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