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Little changed since 1984, officials expect the Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market to open in spring 2023 with a $2.9 million makeover that will include a meeting room for receptions and parties, restrooms, more vendor stalls, and space for more vendor tents.

Little changed since 1984, officials expect the Morgan County-Decatur Farmers Market to open in spring 2023 with a $2.9 million makeover that will include a meeting room for receptions and parties, restrooms, more vendor stalls, and space for more vendor tents.

The Morgan County Commission last week added $500,000 to the project, from its American Rescue Plan Act funds, supplementing $1.3 million in allocated state funds. Decatur City Council members have also discussed an appropriation.

County Commission Chairman Ray Long said the farmers’ market allocation will be distributed once work begins.

“We’re investing in the county,” Long said. “A lot of people use the farmers market. More people are raising gardens and need a place to sell some of their vegetables. If you are going to build a new one, now is the time, especially since this qualifies for federal money.”

City Councilman Kyle Pike, whose District 2 includes the market, said he anticipates the council will kick in about $1 million for the project, with money coming from a $20 million bond it floated this year.

“There have been some discussions about the money for the market,” he said. “I know they are working with architects and waiting on a final design. I’m glad to see the County Commission come on board with the project.”

The largest chunk of the cost is coming from the Legislature through Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur.

The $1.3 million in state money is coming from the Alabama Farmers Market Authority fund and the General Fund, Orr said.

Farmers Market Board Chairwoman Laura Ritch said preliminary plans call for the present facility to be razed after the 2022 selling season concludes in November and construction of the new facility to begin at the same location, 211 First Ave. S.E.

Pike said the city is working on a plan B if construction is delayed.

“Ideally, we would like the construction project to be complete by next spring, but we know with construction, supply chain issues can be difficult,” he said. “We will have someplace temporary for everyone. It will be set up nearby if it comes to it. I’d like something within eyesight of the current facility while construction is going on.”

Veteran market vendor Marilyn Champion of Champion Farm in Falkville is concerned, too, that the facility won’t be ready this time next year.

“We might end up in the parking lot here,” said Champion, who has been selling at the market since the 1990s. “That isn’t going to be good in bad weather and the heat.”

She also worried about losing customers if a temporary location is needed.

“We don’t really want to move to a new location so people would have to look for us. I’m worried because of the weather and the difficulty getting supplies that might happen. We certainly need to stay close to here,” she said.

She wants to see a design of the future facility, too.

“I hope I will be able to pull up and unload my truck as I do now,” she said sitting near the back of her red truck while selling strawberries on Wednesday morning. “If not, it is going to be a lot more work on all of us.”

She said the new building would be a plus in bad weather.

“It will take a little bit of getting used to. I know some customers want it to be open-air like this one because that is how farmer’s markets should be,” she said. “I spend so many hours here, it is like a home away from home for me. I will miss it.”

Buddy and Carol Gregg of Decatur are regular customers at the market. They were pleased to hear about the possibility of a new farmers’ market replacing the current one.

“We’ll still come because we know the food is fresh and locally grown. We want to buy local,” said Carol Gregg, who bought $6 of strawberries Wednesday.

“I’m glad to hear they are building a new one. I am sure it will be nicer. I can’t wait to see it,” Buddy Gregg added.

Preliminary design calls for the new market building to have 18 truck adjacent vendor stalls, 26 vendor stalls undercover, a multipurpose lawn capable of holding 48 vendor tents, public restrooms, office and storage space, and a 1,000-square-foot multi-purpose room.

Ritch said last year the foundation at the current site will need to be reinforced to support a facility with roll-up doors, heavier walls, and more space.

Orr said the community meeting room is a necessity and will be a popular gathering place.

“Some groups can’t afford Ingalls Harbor Pavilion or need that much space,” he said. “This will be an affordable center for weddings, wedding receptions, and children’s birthday parties.”

He said the investment into a new farmers market will show citizens and visitors “the city has a sense of community pride, and it will be a destination place for some.”

He favors the market location staying where it has been since it opened in 1984 when CSX Railroad donated the land to the city and county.

“Not only does it help local farmers, it provides access to healthy food in the immediate area,” he said. “There are no grocery stores to serve Northwest Decatur, Northeast Decatur, and even Tanner for fresh fruit and vegetables.”

Ritch said plans are to enable the market to be open 12 months a year. “We need a farmers market where people can buy and sell meats, beef, chicken, and even sweets (such as cupcakes, pies, and cakes),” she said. “We’ll need coolers, storage.”