Published 12:00 am Friday, July 10, 2015

Contractor Johnny Fowler (left) stops work on vehicle ramp construction to talk with construction superintendent Dennis Mangrum and Cotton Warehouse Farmer’s Market owner Danny Holland (right). The Panolian photo by John Howell

Market opening soon in renovated Compress

By John Howell
Thursday is the day that Danny Holland hopes to open the farmer’s market in the old Compress building on Highway 6 where remodeling has been underway for months.

The Cotton Warehouse Farmer’s Market is no roadside stand. The former cavernous cotton warehouse has been adapted to accommodate growers and customers. Large spaces (16’ by 16’) are provided for grower/sellers, furnished with heavy tables to display the vegetables, fruit and other produce.
Steps and ramps have been constructed for easy walk-in access. A concrete ramp has been built to allow farmers to haul their produce in by truck, unload near their stands and exit the other side.
Holland has hired Eddie Harris as market manager. Harris spent 28 years with the Extension Service, 24 in Belzoni as County Agent.

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“He has a lot of contacts through the state and in Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama,” Holland said.
Holland’s goal is to qualify as a Mississippi Certified Farmer’s Market which will require a minimum of 51 percent state-grown products, he said.

Local growers will have priority, Holland said. “We will try to supplement what they don’t have.”
If no local growers are producing cantaloupes, for instance, Harris will be on the phone with his grower contacts to locate cantaloupes to bring to the Batesville market.

Harris’ role will also include coordinating growers’ planting dates and varieties, Holland said. “That way we won’t have everybody winding up with sweet corn at the same time.

At a vendor’s meeting earlier this year, 27 local growers “all said they would be very much interested in selling their produce here,” Harris said.

The Farmer’s Market will charge $10 a day for the space with monthly and annual rates available.
Holland plans to open Tuesday and Thursday from 2 to 7 p.m.; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. It will be closed Wednesdays.

“We don’t want to compete with the downtown (Batesville Square Market each Wednesday),” Holland said.
Each space will include an electric outlet for coolers and fans. There will also be a large, walk-in cooler for vendors.

“Refrigeration allows them to keep it here overnight and not have to haul it back home with them,” said Dennis Mangrum, who has worked as Holland’s construction superintendent. “I think that’s going to be a big plus.”
The building also provides deep shade with open sides that allow any breeze stirring to find its way through, augmented by huge fans.

Holland’s goals blend with his vision to establish year-round all-encompassing farmer’s market that attract both vendors and customers from a 70-to-80 mile radius with eggs, milk, cheese, grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, locally canned fruits and vegetables in addition to the fresh produce.

He also envisions providing fresh vegetables for restaurants, schools a weekly bargain basket of seasonal vegetables and fruits for professionals, delivery of produce to shut-ins and to an area that lies immediately to the west in the Delta, identified as a “food desert.”

“All these things are possibilities,” Holland said. “We’re starting slow; how quick we’ll get there I don’t know.”
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And at the other end of the building where Holland is also developing a classic car dealership offering marina-style storage, detailing and other vehicle oriented services?

That’s a story for another day.