Officials seek plan for south Georgia farmers markets

THOMASVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Officials in two south Georgia towns are trying to figure out how to save their state-owned farmers markets after lawmakers gave them a one-year reprieve in the state budget.

Markets in Thomasville and Cordele had been among those threatened by budget cuts, but will continue to be subsidized by the state into 2021. The state owns nine farmers markets overall, originally building them as a way for farmers to sell produce to wholesale buyers.

“When we go into session next year, we need to have plan,” state Rep. Darlene Taylor, a Thomasville Republican, told the Thomasville Times-Enterprise. “The farmers market must be purchased. It is not a giveaway,”

The buyer could be a joint venture between the city and county or a private entity. If a buyer doesn’t surface, the state could seek to auction the property, said Thomasville Payroll Development Authority Executive Director Shelley Zorn.

Thomas County Commission Chairman Phillip Brown said county officials want the market to stay open, but said he's not sure the county wants to be involved in buying or operating it.

Taylor noted farmers from throughout the region patronize the Thomasville market. Their communities do not have produce packing houses, she added.