Local nonprofit receives $111,000 grant from state

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Mobile market to begin next month

COLUMBUS — Polk County nonprofit Growing Rural Opportunities recently received grants to begin a mobile market, including $111,000 from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to run the program for two years.

GRO’s Erika McMillan said this week the mobile market will in essence be a mobile grocery store, which will feature produce and value food items in the Foothills region. The mobile market will have a set schedule every week, with four stops initially.

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GRO is looking at having the mobile market in and around Polk County, including stops in Tryon and Columbus, as well as Landrum and Rutherford County.

Erika McMillan (left) and Frank Lilly (right), with Polk County’s Growing Rural Opportunities, hold up a check for $111,000 donated to the agency by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. Pictured with the two is Jeff Camden, with the trust fund. (Photo by Leah Justice/Tryon Daily Bulletin)

The stops are scheduled to be an hour to two hours long. Some stops will be once a week and others will be once a month, McMillan said. Stops will be announced on the GRO website and on its Facebook page.

As part of the grant requirements, the mobile market should reach neighborhoods that are a “food desert,” or not in walking distance to grocery stores, McMillan said.

“One of our missions will be to reach neighborhoods who don’t have the ability to get to farmers markets,” McMillan said.

The mobile market will also benefit local farmers, who will have another venue to sell their products, McMillan said.

“This will give farmers an opportunity to sell without having to actually be there,” McMillan said. “It’s a win-win for the community and farmers for local, healthy food.”

The Polk County Board of Commissioners took pictures with the new mobile market vehicle, which the county donated to the agency, during its meeting last week. The bus is the former Book Mobile from the Polk County Library.

GRO Board Chairman Frank Lilly thanked Jeff Camden, from the tobacco trust fund, during the meeting.

“He drove all the way up here from Raleigh to present us this incredible grant,” Lilly said.

Lilly said the mobile market will start sometime in August at his vineyard, Overmountain Vineyard, located on Sandy Plains Road, Tryon.

“It will operate similar to a food truck,” Lilly told commissioners.

Lilly also said the mobile market goes along with the county’s 20/20 Vision Plan to keep Polk County rural.

The mobile market has also received grants from the Polk County Community Foundation and Carolina Farm Credit. The wrapping for the bus was made by Vision Screen Painting out of Greenville, South Carolina.