Former County Offices to Anchor Farmers Market

WINNSBORO – County Council Monday night took the first steps toward putting the fate of their former Voter Registration building into someone else’s hands, but the building at 117 E. Washington St. will not go to Christ Central Ministries, as initially suggested when the structure faced the prospects of the wrecking ball last April. Instead, Council passed first reading Monday night on an ordinance to sell the building to the Fairfield Community Development Corporation (FCDC), a local 501(c)3 dedicated to revitalizing the community.

Terry Vickers, President of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, presented a proposal to Council on behalf of the FCDC during Council’s Sept. 18 work session. Vickers said the FCDC would purchase the building for $100 “and considerations,” during the work session, and the building would be remodeled to serve as the cornerstone of the next phase of the Winnsboro Farmers Market. Christ Central pulled their proposal before it ever came to full Council, Chairman David Ferguson (District 5) said Sept. 18, once they learned the FCDC was interested in the property.

The 6,200-square-foot building, Vickers said, would be known as the Fairfield County Farmers Market Artisan Center Community Kitchen, and would be divided into three spaces:

• 3,000-square-feet – Open area to house the farmers market and an artisans market, on a weekly basis. Fairfield County Arts Council would hold workshops here and students from the Blair College of Art would use the space to develop student-driven classes for adults and children, assisting local residents in developing personal growth and marketable skills;

• 1,500-square-feet – Class space for 12-week courses by Farmers Entrepreneurial University, focusing on nutrition, labeling, expanded marketing for new markets and creation of demand for new jobs; and

• 1,700 square-feet – Shared use community/commercial DHEC licensed kitchen facility, for local farmers to produce food products for market place. This space will serve as an incubator for food entrepreneurs by providing business support, and will serve the community by providing training on proper food preparation, including cooking and canning and other food related classes to increase sale and consumption of locally grown food.

Vickers said the FCDC has received a pledge of $125,000 from three donors wishing to remain anonymous to begin refurbishing the building. The FCDC will also write a Rural Business Enterprise Grant proposal for an additional $200,000, she said. In early 2014, she said, a third phase grant through Eat Smart Move More South Carolina will be written for equipment, technical assistance, professional services, start-up operating costs and working capital. Vickers said the FCDC will insure the building at the time of purchase from the County and will have the facility fully operational by the fall of 2014.

The farmers market is designed to be a year-round market, Vickers said, and the addition of the old Voter Registration building is key to making that happen. So is the ability of merchants in the market to accept SNAP, WIC and Senior Vouchers for the purchase of fresh foods. As of last March, Vickers said, $862,000 went to those food voucher programs in Fairfield County, and none of that money was able to be spent in the farmers market. Vickers said this week that the Winnsboro market has applied with the federal government to be eligible to accept SNAP, WIC and Senior Vouchers, and she said she expects that application to be approved within the next few weeks.