BY MELANIE WADE –
A meeting was held on Tuesday, August 2, 2017, at the 4H Education Center next to the Extension Office, to discuss the vision of a larger, more modern farmer’s market in Mena and how it could draw new visitors to the area, as well as provide a space for more local fresh food vendors and artisans to gain more income.
To present the program, Extension Agent Carla Vaught incorporated the help of Ed Levy, an architect who is familiar with Mena’s values and goals. Levy was the architect behind the Downtown Streetscape that helped to spruce up Mena Street a few years ago. This time around, Vaught took Levy around the city and showed him a few empty lots that could be viable locations to relocate the farmer’s market to, if the decision is made to do so, although no organizations or governmental entities have stepped up to say they will back the project as of yet. Levy studied four locations and created renderings on two of those.
The most viable option is a location one block off of Mena Street, between Port Arthur and Church Street, just across from Brodix. Another option is the empty lot on the corner of Mena and Maple Streets. Each would provide covered areas where vendors could escape the elements. They also include a large fireplace, creating an area to be used in colder months. Food trucks could have a court area outside, and many activities could be held in the market, including family reunions and weddings. The larger vision, just across from Brodix, dubbed the “Ward Creek Site” could also create a stage area and in the future could be expanded to include a splash park, a playground, and a larger festival area.
Although the concepts are just that, concepts, some local business leaders, county and city officials, and citizens believe it could be just the key to expanding the farmer’s market and bringing new shoppers in. Some current Farmer’s Market vendors expressed their concern on the cost and wondered why they can’t just remain at the Depot on Sherwood Avenue. The high pitched sound of the train whistle was mentioned as a deterrent for vendors and consumers, alike, as well as the want to move the market closer to downtown.
The proposed new markets would cost roughly $1 to 2 million dollars, depending on the plan chosen, and the return on investment could be astounding. In a few weeks, a financial adviser who is very familiar with economic and rural developments plans to present a plan on how to raise the funding for the markets. Although it is now just a vision, in the future, those visions could become a reality.