On September 13, 2023

Rutland winter farmers’ market moves to Howe building, again

 

By Katy Savage

The Vermont Farmers’ Market is returning to the Franklin Conference Center in Rutland’s Howe Center again this winter as the Farmers’ Hall building undergoes contamination cleanup.  

The organization recently signed a new lease for the Howe Center, even as board members of the Vermont Farmers’ Food Center estimate Farmers’ Hall will be ready for tenants by November. 

“It will be a building that’s ready for occupancy,” Food Center Executive Director Heidi Lynch said. “We’ll be celebrating that with the community.”

The food center was forced to close and the farmers’ market was forced to relocate after elevated levels of tetrachloroethylene (TCE), a carcinogen, was found in the soil beneath the Farmers’ Hall building, impacting indoor air quality. The contamination has also held up a $3 million expansion plan for the multi-building campus.

The farmers’ market spent a winter at the Cortina Inn before moving to the Howe Center last winter. Greg Cox, a vendor and former board member of the Vermont Farmers’ Market, said it made sense to stay at the Howe Center one more winter. 

“To go to a third site in almost as many years made no sense at all,” Cox said. “Then you just confuse everybody.”

Cox is the owner of Boardman Hill Farm and president of the Vermont Farmers’ Food Center. He said the market is eager to return to its original location. 

“We’ve been working our butts off,” Cox said. “Everyone understands the economic impact the food center has on the area, but it’s a process.”  

The Howe Center space is smaller than the Farmers’ Hall and can only accommodate about 55-60 vendors. 

“Our sales are down,” Cox said. “I think the food center is a better, larger, more accommodating place, but the Howe Center — at least we have a place.”

The Vermont Farmers’ Food Center board is currently reviewing bids after the organization received an $800,000 grant last month from the Vermont Department of Economic Development for contamination cleanup. 

“We received bids at the end of last week and so we’re just finalizing that process so we can get the work going,” Lynch said, estimating the work will take about six weeks. 

The remediation will involve removing contaminated concrete and installing a thick liner with new concrete to improve air quality. Asbestos-containing materials will also be removed.

“It will all be dependent on ordering materials,” Lynch said. 

After the cleanup, the state will require additional testing and documentation before the building can be occupied. 

The organization is waiting to hear about another $700,000 grant from the Agency of Community Dev. brownfields program.

“If those funds are awarded, the organization will determine what the next highest priority is,” said consultant Elisabeth Kulas. 

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