Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Covington-based: Farmers' market

No-brainer for Ky.

Covington could soon provide a home for an enlightened use of Kentucky tobacco settlement money - a $10 million farmers' market. It would allow farmers from Northern Kentucky's 10 counties to reduce dependence on burley tobacco and diversify to other crops. The new market would supply fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, flowers and other produce to an underserved urban center.

A market board of farmers, bankers, business and government officials will apply in Frankfort Thursday for $5 million from Kentucky's annual $123 million in tobacco settlement money. The state Agricultural Policy Board will give its answer July 18. Northern Kentucky has put together a strong plan for the first big retail development off Covington's riverfront in decades. It deserves a resounding yes from the state.

Covington and Kenton County pledged $1.7 million in land for the block-long Scott Street site, between Sixth and Seventh. The market board is confident it can raise another $2.9 million from corporations, foundations and other private donors.

Gov. Paul Patton had the foresight to require half the tobacco settlement money from cigarette makers to go to help farmers find alternatives to make up for lost revenues. A major farmers' market is a quick, visionary solution to assure them a steady demand if they switch to other crops.

Kentucky has rejected grant requests from single-county farmers markets. Northern Kentucky's market will draw produce from Kenton, Campbell, Boone, Bracken, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Mason, Pendleton and Owen. It can count on Covington's office workers to swell the daily customer base. It will sell all-Kentucky produce. Cincinnati's Findlay Market sells more than just Ohio produce. Northern Kentucky's group expects the indoor-outdoor market will create up to 250 new jobs plus others on the farms. Sales could begin next spring during construction. A bison rancher in Trimble County already asked to supply buffalo steaks. Kentucky-grown Christmas trees will be sold in December.

One landowner and one lessee object to the market on that site, but the city and county are working to relocate them within Covington. The market is an imaginative Northern Kentucky development that benefits multiple interests.

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