RED SPRINGS — The long-awaited farmers market in Red Springs officially opened for business Wednesday after a ceremony dedicating the facility to Mayor John M. McNeill.
McNeill, who served on the town board for 34 years before being elected mayor eight years ago, told family, friends and community members gathered at the market on West Fourth Avenue that he was “very honored” to have the market named for him. He believes the facility will be a site where fresh produce will be offered and community members can gather.
“It will probably take a couple of years to become a viable farmers market, but that day will come,” McNeill said.
An open-air farmers market for the community has been discussed since 2014. McNeill said that three years ago attempts were made to develop such a market but it didn’t work.
“It rained almost every day that first year,” he said.
The farmers market that opened Wednesday includes a 3,000-square-foot building. The building is 30 feet wide and 20 feet tall with open sides to allow farmers and produce sellers to drive their vehicles into the building for easier setup.
The market is handicap accessible and has bathrooms. The parking lot is currently gravel, but there are plans to pave it.
The market’s construction cost was a little more than $107,000, with $99,000 of that paid using a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Look at that building,” said Michael Walters, a former state senator. “It’s a farmers market and an events center. It’s in the center of town and it’s available to everyone.”
Walters called the farmers market a “new vision” and a site of great economic potential. He led the score of people who went to the podium to praise McNeill for his love and dedication to his community and his achievements as a town leader.
The market will be an asset to those who want to sell their produce and those who want to purchase it, said Rossie Bullock, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The market will be a high point in Red Springs for years to come, Tim Lewis said.
It was Lewis’ company, United Builders of Lumberton Inc., that built the market’s building.
“I’m not a granddaddy yet, but maybe sometime in the future I’ll bring my grandchild here, get some potatoes, and tell him his granddaddy built this,” Lewis said.
Angelica Locklear and her mother, Paula K. Locklear, were the first people to have their produce for sale at the market on Wednesday.
“This is great. We now have a place to sell, and people have a place to buy without having to travel as far as Lumberton and Laurinburg,” Angelica said.
Town Manager James Bennett said the market will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, and 8 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays. Anyone wanting to sell produce or rent the facility for an event should call 910-843-5241.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.