By Nick Nunn staff writer

Morgan County Manager Michael Lamar announced during the regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners (BOC) on Tuesday, March 4, that the county will be taking part in a public/private partnership with Keith Kelly, owner of Kelly Products, Inc., of Covington, in order to construct a farmers market, along with an agricultural tourism site at 2620 Eatonton Road.

BOC Chair Andrew Ainslie noted that the county created a feasibility study for a farmers market 18 months ago, which claimed that Morgan County will be able to support a farmers market, and that the plan that the county is working out with Kelly is “going to encompass all of the things we hoped it would.”

Lamar stated that Kelly plans to build a tourist site, including consumer goods retail, an event space, a restaurant and an artisan market, on the 40-acre tract on Eatonton Road, and that the county will only be responsible for the construction of the farmers market, which Kelly will then operate. Commissioner Ron Milton noted that operating the farmers market would create the largest cost involved with the project.

Lamar said that the market will have a “tremendous positive impact” and that Kelly has the “wherewithal to make this a reality.” He also stated that Kelly has the intention of purchasing produce sold at the farmers market for use at the restaurant that he will construct on site, thus giving farmers a reliable outlet for their goods.

In an effort to offset the cost of constructing the farmers market, the BOC voted to approve of a USDA Rural Development for Rural Business Enterprise Grant. Chris McCauley, executive director of the Madison-Morgan Conservancy, has been aiding the county in preparing the grant application.

Lamar stated in a telephone interview that the grant amount can go up to $100,000, but he said that he expects the construction cost of the farmers market to be less than the maximum amount that the grant allows.