By Admin, BuyLocalBG.com, BuyLocalBg@gmail.com/
Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 3:30 PM CST
At Buy Local Bowling Green we value your opinion and the opinion of our partners. With the recent stories of Hitcents development, restaurants in the parking structure, Mariah’s and the TIF district in general we have raised a cautious eye to the development of downtown Bowling Green. Plans are in the works for a UK managed and run Farmers Market near the parking structure in the TIF district (Opening in April). Chef Josh Poling of Home Cafe and Marketplace was on the board and has since written a well thought out piece about the developments downtown and why we should be concerned. Here are his words:
On February 22 I sent the following e-mail to the elected officials involved in the development of the new downtown farmers market. I was asked to be part of the markets board of directors and was initially excited. After several discussions with our network of farmers I changed my feelings based upon the education I took time to obtain from the farmers market community in Bowling Green.
If you know me you know I am not a crazy conservative that preaches low taxes. I believe taxes are necessary and don’t mind paying my fare share. I cannot count how many times I have heard”how can you as a business owner vote/support….” I don’t mind paying taxes. I don’t mind seeing my tax dollars go to innovative projects and a cause as worthy as renovating the heart of Bowling Green. What I do mind is feeling like those tax dollars are being gambled away. I mind seeing our elected officials turning a blind eye from failure after failure and keep pushing on with their political agenda.
This downtown market is a bad idea. No, it is a terrible idea. I hope everyone I have talked to regarding this project finds their voice soon, and I guess I hope this may help them find that voice. That’s why I chose to share this now:
Hello Mike, Amy, and Brittany,
I am sure by now we have all seen the Daily News article detailing the litigation revolving around Hitcent’s Park Plaza. Yet another downtown redevelopment project that failed to live up to projections and promises. How quickly a project once met with enthusiasm and promise has turned to disdain and distrust.
I am sure most of you all know that I grew up in Bowling Green. After living in four different cities and houses the first 6 years of my childhood, Bowling Green was the first place I could ever truly call home. I went to Cumberland Trace, Drakes Creek, and then Greenwood. I remember going to Diddle Arena to watch Darren Horn’s nationally ranked WKU teams play in a double header with the incredibly talented and also nationally ranked Lady Hilltoppers. I remember going to Clark’s to grab milkshakes, birthday parties at DUC, and how excited I was to wake up once a year to see hot air balloons filling the sky.
I love my hometown and was so excited when I was given the opportunity to open my restaurant here. So excited in fact, that my wife and I simply decided to name it Home. We pride ourselves not only in cooking great food, but great food that tells the story of this area using the ingredients of this areas farms.
The farmers that supply my restaurant are part of a very close inner circle at Home Cafe. They are welcomed through the back door and usually greeted with a tight hug or a handshake. While I may be one of the faces of local food, they are the heartbeat, arms, legs, and brains of it. They are my family. We celebrate together, but more importantly we provide strength for one another. I once had to fire a close friend of mine. When I got to work the next day there was a farmer there waiting on me to offer to help wash dishes. This week when we delivered meals to individuals who could not leave their homes, it was my farmer’s market family that stepped up and volunteered to help.
So when it came time to discuss the Southern KY Fresh Market I was excited to talk with them about it. Unlike most of you though, my meetings were not huge assemblies. My meetings were held with phone calls to friends, on the couch in my living room, in their barns as they fed the chicken and pigs, and over cups of coffee at Spencer’s Coffee house.
You all already know this, but the Downtown Market does not have support from many local farmers. We are trying to plan a market without farmers input. We should have brought individuals to the table earlier. We have a board full of wonderful people, but I must ask how many of them have ever stepped foot in a farmers market? How many of them were scraping snow off of high tunnels on Monday and Tuesday. How many of them woke up every hour each night this past week to make sure the animals water had not frozen? How many of them know what it is to lose a whole crop due to mother nature? To us this is an exciting new project to bring to the downtown we so dearly love, but to these farmers it is their livelihood. It is how they put food on the table each night, how they afford healthcare, and how they plan to put their kids through college.
I am withdrawing my involvement with the Gateway Farmer’s Market not because they asked me to, because they did not. No, I am withdrawing because it is a bad idea and a poor use of public funds. I know a large portion of the funding is coming through a grant, but let’s leave that grant for a community that desperately needs a farmer’s market. Community Farmer’s Market has been voted the second best farmer’s market in the state for two years in a row. They have revolutionized the role of a farmers market as well as its organizational structure. They frequently bring not only statewide, but NATIONAL recognition to this area. Also, Beech Bend, while a young market, is a great market with terrific vendors. Several of their producer only vendors are committed to reviving heirloom varieties. They are saving the food of the south and in doing that saving the our history and our story. Bowling Green does not need another farmers market.
In regards to the public funds for this project, I ask of you what is the single largest obstacle to a small scale farmer? I know because I hear them talk about it every week. It’s land access. How can you afford to farm when you can not afford the land. While Bowling Green’s constant growth has undoubtedly been great for community businesses and jobs, it has not been great for farmers that need land. It’s not that it doesn’t exist; it’s that they cant afford it. I live in South Glen Gables subdivision by South Warren High School. Who would have ever thought that rich farmland would become a subdivision? The first farmers market I can ever remember was the Hunts would set up a road side stand on Lover’s Lane. That land is now Traditions and the funeral home. Our constant growth as a town is a blessing, but I ask at what cost has it come. We need small scale Warren County Farmers. Therefore I ask of you all, if you want to do something to help farmers, and you have public funds to assist, help make land accessible to them. Provide incentives for restaurants to use local product. Provide sponsorship for their double dollar programs so that private companies don’t have to. Most of all…TALK to them. Ask a farmer what they need. THAT is how you help. We have farmers markets, but there are so many other ways farmers need our help!
I wish you all nothing but the best. While I realize it is highly unlikely this project will be stopped, I hope I at least made each of you reconsider for a second. You all are rushing so much. You have this April 1 deadline, but you have no name, no structure, no market coordinator, no board meeting yet, and most of all no farmers. Slow down and have some meaningful conversations. The best way to talk to our farmers market family is not mass assemblies. Take some time to talk to them. Go to their farms. Meet their families. We have insisted all along this new market would help, but you cannot help them if you do not know them and their needs. If you need help setting up conversations I will be more than happy to assist.
Best of luck and thank you for your public service. We all love this town so much. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
We invite those involved with the market to give responses to the concern via Buy Local Bowling Green as well all want what is best for the community and the tax dollars being spent. We also invite for everyone in our community to respond via facebook and twitter.