By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

Keith Kelly, owner of Kelly Products, Inc. located in Covington, has released updated information regarding the development of his private-public partnered farmers market, along with an agricultural tourism site, to be located at at 2620 Eatonton Road.

The county signed on to fund the project earlier this month. According to Kelly’s press release, “Kelly Products’ overarching goal for this venture is to add value to land in the region by creating an outlet through which local goods can be sold. As a Founder’s Circle member of Georgia Grown, Kelly Products realizes the value in locally grown and produced food.” Kelly explained the importance of creating local agricultural centers to ensure longterm environmental sustainability.

“Localized production is going to continue to make more sense from an economic standpoint as time goes on. As freight and input costs rise, and issues associated with water scarcity and other environmental concerns become more pressing, we believe that the more communities can do to become more sustainable, the better prepared they will be for the challenges ahead,” said Kelly.

“Today, consumers have more information and power. They want to know where their food comes from and what’s in it,” said Kelly. While still in the preliminary planning stages of the Farmer’s Market, the vision for this project has become clearer. Kelly estimates the first phase of the project with generate 25 new jobs for the county and development is slated to begin in the middle of 2015.

“Development for the Eatonton Highway property will have a phased approach, beginning with a specialty grocery concept store with a café and a farmers market. There will be an emphasis on unique, high quality and local products. Consumer education will be a key component as the site evolves,” said Kelly.

Kelly believes this venture is the next logical step for Kelly Products, which has been in the agribusiness for over two decades. “We have been developing agricultural products and software for the past twenty years. During that time we have ventured into agricultural production on our farm in South Georgia and our company garden in Morgan County, and our interest in and support for local food has continued to grow,” said Kelly, adding,

“This is no small undertaking, but our company is passionate about this venture and we believe it will be a great asset for local farmers and local and regional consumers.” Bob Hughes, president of the Madison-Morgan Chamber of Commerce is looking forward to this project coming to fruition.

“This development not only fills a niche in our economy, but it will create an economic ripple effect in our county and our region,” said Hughes. “One of our main goals is to enhance the vitality of our community and businesses such as this are helping us do just that.” The county will team up with Kelly Products to build the farmers market and Kelly Products will operate the enterprise.

Christine McCauley, executive director of the Madison-Morgan County Conservancy, is currently working with the county on a grant for the farmers market, according to Kelly’s press release. “We’re thrilled to see this type of land use in Morgan County and believe the agritourism center will create jobs, increase tourism, and support Morgan County’s agricultural industry,” said McCauley. County Manager Michael Lamar hopes this project will be a success all around.

“Through this type of partnership, everyone benefits – the community, private business and local farmers whose goods will be promoted and sold through the farmers market,” said Lamar. BOC Chairman Andrew Ainslie believes Kelly’s project will be avaluable addition to the community.

“This partnership is a win-win as far as we’re concerned. Business development that advances agriculture and agritourism is a wonderful fit for the resources already prevalent throughout the county,” said Ainslie.