It's always been a bit mystifying as to why Albany hasn't been home to a thriving state farmers market.
The city is in the middle of one of the nation's best producers of agricultural products -- Southwest Georgia. Albany would seem to be ideally positioned for a good-sized farmers market, but the old state market off Oakridge Drive was never fully utilized and now has been pretty much abandoned by the state.
That's what makes a proposal by the Southwest Georgia Project so, well, appetizing.
While the project is still in the planning stages and there are a few hitches to work out, what officials with the farm collective want to do is to lease the defunct farmers market facility and create a fresh-cut processing center that could take farmers' produce and make it marketable to area school systems and other institutions.
At Monday's Dougherty County Commission meeting, County Administrator Richard Crowdis noted one of the biggest hurdles -- the county obtaining ownership of the facility from the state. Before the county can lease the property, its ownership has to revert from the state. That, he said, has to be done by the General Assembly, which doesn't meet until January. If the state government agrees to let ownership of the property revert to Dougherty County, the county may not get possession of it until June or July.
Still, such a facility with a good, reliable source of marketable agricultural products priced competitively and operated with a solid business plan would be an asset in a number of ways. It would provide growers with a market for their products and provide students and others with nutritious, fresh food. There's also potential that it would help school systems stretch their budgets, particularly since transportation costs should be less.
The Southwest Georgia Project appears to be doing its homework on this idea. Daaiyah Salaam with the Southwest Georgia Project told commissioners the organization has already spoken with a dozen area school districts about which products they would utilize. And the organization is working with consultants to complete a plan that would enlarge the 3,000-square-foot facility into a covered, 10,000-square-foot processing center, one that would include educational opportunities for school children and for farmers.
"I'd hoped the timeline for this project would not be as long, but the additional time gives us an opportunity to do more training," Shirley Sherrod with the Southwest Georgia Project said. "We've already started work on getting the farmers ready."
No doubt there is a lot to work out before a facility like this can become a reality, but it certainly shows promise and potential benefits for our area.