USDA grant will be a shot in the arm for the arts, farmers markets

Beaver Dam-FM

Ohio County Farmers Market in Beaver Dam

A few years ago while attending Christ the King Oktoberfest in Lexington (admittedly one of my favorite festivals of the year because of their musical lineups) I paid a dollar for one of those pull tab things that you never win anything on and, lo and behold, I won $50. I had never been more excited in my life. I spent the evening telling anyone and everyone I ran into, known or unknown, that I had just won $50 and waving my $50 bill around as proof that this was the best thing that had ever happened to anyone on the planet, in the history of ever. While that may seem extreme, it was fun to feel so surprised at winning a little money that it certainly made the evening outstanding.

So, imagine my reaction when I received a phone call about two months ago from Jeff Jones and Dean Tandy with United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development telling me the Kentucky Arts Council was going to receive $51,000 for our project to integrate the arts into farmers’ markets in Owsley and Ohio counties. I was pretty sure I floated around for the next week without my feet touching the ground! In the months preceding this news, my coworkers Mark Brown and Sarah Schmitt, along with arts council Executive Director Lori Meadows and I, had spent countless hours developing this project proposal and preparing our grant application to the USDA. We were so excited about the work we wanted to do we had decided we would proceed with it on some level even if we didn’t get the funding.

Owsley-FM

Owsley County Farmer’s Market in Booneville

But, as you know by now, we did! And we have already begun preliminary work in both counties to get the project underway. Overall, the project that we have titled “Homegrown/Handmade” looks at ways to create opportunities for artists to sell alongside their agricultural counterparts at a local established venue – the farmers’ market. There are many results we hope to measure once the project has been completed. “Homegrown/Handmade” will generate new revenue for local artists and increased revenue for farmers in these counties and also will increase local tourism. It will provide extensive training opportunities for the artists, farmers and community members involved on a broad range of topics associated with small business development and community development. All of these trainings are free and open to the public, so if you live in counties nearby I am encouraging you to take advantage of these learning opportunities.

The arts council will be documenting every step of this project and will produce a publication at the end that will include a step-by-step guide for other communities in the state interested in going about the work of integrating their local artists and arts activities into the farmers market to enhance local culture.

Since announcing the grant, we’ve heard from residents in several communities who are sharing interesting ways they have been integrating the arts into their farmers markets during the last several years. I am glad to hear from Kentuckians who have already begun to examine the possibilities of how the arts can maximize the farmers market experience for communities.

We will be sharing more information with you via our blog and social media as the project moves along. Our first training opportunities are later this month and mark the first official activity for each project, developing a creative asset inventory. You can find the dates, times and locations for these trainings, and register, on the arts council’s website.

If your local farmers’ market includes the arts and artists and you would like to share that information, please feel free to contact me by email at emilyb.moses@ky.gov.

Emily B. Moses
Creative Industry Manager

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