Unicoi County leaders are working on a plan to build a permanent farmer’s market pavilion in the county to help draw in more farmers market customers.

The Unicoi County Economic and Community Development Board was recently awarded a $25,000 Three Star Grant from the state of Tennessee. Money from the grant can be used to help with local projects that will help improve the economy.

A non-profit organization started the Erwin Farmers Market three years ago. Roughly a dozen vendors set-up in a parking lot next to the Unicoi County Courthouse.

North Caronlia farmer Terry Moffitt drives an hour and a half every week in the summer to sell his vegetables at the market, but said sometimes not having a permanent place to set-up can be inconvenient. “Great location… {But} this is the hottest place I was ever at as far as setting up a farmers market.” Moffitt, the owner of Tater Hill Farm, said the rain puts a big dent in his profits too because fewer customers come out to shop.

Tyler Engle, executive director of the Unicoi County Economic and Communuty development board, hopes building a permanent pavilion with bathrooms will help attract more customers to the farmers market, even on rainy days. “We saw potential in creating a pavilion, a space, a shelter, for that farmers market and we thought it was really promising to help continue quality of life, quality of place efforts going on in our area,” Engle said.

Engle also said he hopes Unicoi County can replicate the success of Johnson City’s Farmers Market. Johnson City recently built a farmers market pavilion in downtown. Moffitt also sells vegetables at the Johnson City Farmers Market and said the permanent shelter has really helped to bring in more customers.

Engle hopes the pavilion in Unicoi County will serve more than one purpose. “We hope to get seven days of use out of it. That’s the ultimate hope, that we have food trucks come to downtown. It’ll be a good place for people to go and sit and eat.”

Engle said the board will work with federal and state partners to secure the rest of the money needed to build the pavilion. He did not have an exact cost estimate for the project. He also said they are working to identify the best site to build the pavilion and hope to keep it in downtown Erwin. Engle said construction could start by January.