SHEPHERDSTOWN – Plans to expand a Shepherdstown farmers market into an “agricultural campus” should move forward in less than a month, according to the center’s owner.
Morgan’s Grove Market owner Peter Corum said he expects to have the project’s site plan approval within weeks and to begin construction immediately following the recent approval of the concept plan for the market.
“Basically, we are on the final step,” Corum said. “On Jan. 8, we will have final site plan approval. So on Jan. 9, we are good to go. We’re already, in essence, fully leased at this point. Our goal is to be cutting the red ribbon May 30.”
Corum said plans for the site include a private elementary school, the first certified West Virginia food hub, a community kitchen and three independent small food-based businesses – a deli/butcher shop, a bakery and a coffee place.
“Basically, we are replicating the old downtown,” he said, adding a karate facility and a holistic healing and art center and an Italian and Mexican restaurant are expected to round out the offerings there.
Corum said he plans to move forward with the construction of the first new building, with plans to eventually expand that number to five. The market will be open six days a week, he said.
Corum called the model for the market a groundbreaking experiment.
“What we’re saying to the farmers is, ‘Hey, if you come Saturday, we’ll guarantee that we’ll take everything from you.’ We’ve got a model of not only expanding agriculture but aggregating it, and having a zero-waste philosophy. So you try to sell the whole vegetable, and it can go into the restaurants and the community kitchen that we have. Once it’s hitting the end of its retail life, we can add value to the food and put it onto the shelf to extend its life. And then, if it still doesn’t sell, before it goes bad we just donate it to one of the food banks.”
The expansion will also involve revamping the community gardens at Morgan’s Grove, which were established at the same time as the farmers market.
“We are telling (the gardening clubs) that we will give them dedicated land, pay for whatever they want to plant and offer to buy back anything that they grow so that we can put it right back into the Homegrown/Homemade store,” Corum said.
The new facilities will also bring together food-oriented and health-oriented businesses, especially those focused on alternative medicines.
“We’re focused, in particular, on addressing the obesity and diabetes crisis going on in West Virginia,” Corum said. “I think the big, big thing is the integration of our local food with the health collaborative. Not only can they say, ‘Hey, you need to change your diet,’ but also, ‘Go downstairs with our nutritionist, meet the chef who can show you how to [cook healthy meals] affordably.’”
Corum said he sees growth in localized agribusiness.
“We’re on the verge of an agricultural revolution in Jefferson County, and there’s no reason why we can’t be the Silicon Valley of value-added foods,” he said.
Some proposals related to the expansion — including a request to rezone the lot Morgans Grove Market occupies to the “Commercial/Industrial” zoning category — had ran into opposition from planning staff, local residents and, ultimately, the County Commission. After the market’s rezoning request was denied, Corum sought a conditional use permit, which will allow the expansion of the project without requiring that the site be rezoned.