For many, flea markets and farmers markets go hand in hand. They both provide a place for local businesses, farmers, and entrepreneurs to sell goods within the community instead of exporting out of the area. Markets contribute to the economic development of the area and offer community members quality affordable goods.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture thinks so, too. Their Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) branch offers complimentary architectural and design services to qualifying wholesale markets, farmers markets, public markets, and food hubs, “all of which are important parts of the national food distribution network,” according to the AMS website.
The AMS architect “provides guidance that covers all phases of development from the initial concept through the construction process. He provides technical assistance to enhance or create structures that are functional, safe and efficient and meet the needs of stakeholders and customers; and provides expertise to ensure that building codes comply with zoning laws, fire regulations, and local and state ordinances.”
One of the most recent recipients of USDA’s free design services is Ripley’s Flea Market in Ripley, Mississippi. Market owner Jerry Windham wanted to add on a farmer’s market to his popular monthly market. “AMS provided the preliminary design for a new market pavilion and event space located on the grounds of the existing flea market intended to bring together farmers, ranchers, artisans, artists, and customers in a safe, family-oriented, and inexpensive venue.”
The initial design for the Farmer’s Market at Ripley Flea is completed, but “the next process is building it,” says Jerry. Overall, “I’m really impressed with their design and the structure.” Jerry says that he worked with his regional economic development committees and partnered with a local nonprofit, who will be a main beneficiary of the market.
“What started the whole process is we had this plot of land,” says Jerry. “And now it’s an opportunity to build a much bigger presence for our business.” Jerry says that he would recommend this USDA program to other markets looking to add on a farmer’s market to their business. “They are very nice people and very eager to help,” he says. “They consider a lot of different things like crowd expectations, supply and logistics, and offer a lot of great insight.” Jerry says, “We are a huge agricultural community, but we only have one grocery store. So, even though we grow a lot of agriculture in our area, we’re not consuming it – it’s going elsewhere. So this market is a great opportunity for our community.”
To learn more about the Wholesale Markets and Facility Design program from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service department, visit www.ams.usda.gov. There is also an article featuring this topic and Ripley’s market on the USDA blog.