[cleeng_content id="859028326" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]INWOOD – The state is getting out of the farm market business.
Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick announced the Department of Agriculture will seek bids through early next month for private entities interested in running the Inwood Farmers Market, which has been operated by state ag officials since the 1970s.
“I believe it’s only fair to the other farms and markets in the region,” Helmick said.
Helmick, a Pocahontas County businessman elected to the office in 2012, said the state’s role is to promote West Virginia’s agricultural goods and value-added products, but not to operate a market that competes with privately run farm markets.
“I think the WVDA has – to some degree – been in competition with private businesses in the Eastern Panhandle,” said Helmick, who replaced Gus Douglass, a Democrat first elected to the office in 1964 whose handling of loans, state-paid travel and other office practices continues to generate headlines.
“Privatizing this market is a better direction to go – one that can create better year-round shopping for consumers, while at the same time helping state government operate more efficiently.”
Helmick notes that when the state opened the 11,975-square-feet market on Church Street, it was the area’s sole such year-round operation.
He said that any lessee must agree to continue to operate the facility as a farmers market and to use the 20,625-square-feet cold storage facility on the property for agricultural products.
“Beyond that, they would be allowed to operate the business as they see fit,” reads a news release from Helmick’s office. “[The] WVDA would maintain ownership of the structures, but the leasee would be responsible for building contents and basic maintenance.”
Sealed bids are due March 5. Anyone interested may find details on the bidding procedure by calling Mike Teets at 304-538-2397 or Anne Oravec at 304-558-2221.