Craig County is known for its mountains and sprawling farmland and because of this, community members are very excited to hear that a farmer’s market will be opening for them to sell their produce.
“This project addresses a critical need in our community by enhancing access to fresh, locally produced food for our residents while creating economic opportunity for our farmers and small businesses,” shared Jesse Spence, Craig County Board of Supervisors chairman.
The good news from Dan Collins, the county administrator, is that all the funding from local sources has been approved.
Phase I includes:
- AFID Grant $ 50,000
- T-Mobil Grant $ 50,000
- County of Craig $ 25,000
- Town of New Castle $ 25,000
- EDA $ 12,500
- Tourism $ 12,500
- Total $175,000
“Using the State of Virginia contract services, we have a Construction Quote of $149,701.02 for Phase I of the Farmers Market Project,” Collins reported. “Construction should start the last week of July and since the State met the procurement requirements, we don’t have to seek bids for the project.”
Collins added, “We submitted the AFID Infrastructure Grant Program ($50,000) Application and the T-Mobil Grant ($50,000) grant for the Farmers Market was awarded last week. The AFID Grant award ($50,000) should be announced this month.”
“We know that in today’s economy, every dollar counts, so T-Mobile is focused on supporting the communities we serve, and this is just one more way we can help!” Roni Singleton, from T-Mobile, said. “As a T-Mobile Hometown grant recipient, New Castle will receive this grant help build a covered colonnade pavilion at the Craig County Farmers Market, for local merchants and farmers to sell goods, and for the community to use as an entertainment venue and gathering space. It is our hope that the $50,000 grant will help New Castle jumpstart this important community project and re-energize the town and build upon what makes them unique.”
There are few stipulations for a county to quality, as the T-Mobile Hometown Grants program funds projects to “build, rebuild, or refresh community spaces that help foster local connections in a town.”
Singleton added, “Projects should be shovel-ready, physical builds or improvements that can be completed within 12 months of receiving Hometown Grants funding. Examples of eligible projects include adaptive uses of older and historic buildings into community gathering spaces, improvements to outdoor parks or trails, and technology projects for the public library.”
Craig County said that it is thankful to T-Mobile and their partners with Main Street America and Smart Growth America, two organizations with extensive experience in developing vibrant and prosperous small towns and rural communities to select recipients.
“Together, we determine the grant recipients based on detail and fullness of the submission, community impact, viability of the project among other factors,” Singleton said.
“The Craig County Farmers Market will serve as a catalyst for economic growth, attracting visitors and creating job opportunities within our community. It will showcase the diversity and richness of our local producers and provide a unique shopping experience for residents and visitors alike,” C. Jordan Labiosa said.
T-Mobile was first introduced as a major internet supporter during the COVID pandemic.
Though Craig County has a population of less than 5,000, internet service is a major factor in a family’s everyday lives, whether for work, play or socialization. Internet service in Craig until that time was spotty in most areas.
Labiosa needed internet service when his employer closed their office, and he was expected to work from home. However, Labiosa’s home in Craig County wasn’t the ‘connected internet land’ that others had in Roanoke, so he became the catalyst of bringing 5G from T-Mobile in.
Trace Bellassai also was integral in assisting Labiosa and was chairman of the Broadband Committee.
“T-Mobile already had phone service, from a tower near the courthouse in New Castle,” Bellassai had shared, “It was just that they were enabling the home internet, so that’s why they were able to move really quickly.”
Now, to add to the momentum, this internet service allowed Craig County to also be eligible for a T-Mobile grant, which Craig recently received to help the establishment of a new farmers market on Main Street.
Craig County now has a service provider, BroadbandNow.com and it is stated that, “92.6% of Craig’s population now has broadband access. That’s not only high, but it’s also slightly higher than the state average of 91.2%.”
Labiosa is grateful as it also helped him to reach out in his job opportunity, and he is now the marketing director for a Nashville-based mental health company.
He shared previously, “I couldn’t have done that without T-Mobile.” It has also helped others to obtain jobs, working from home, as well as families being able to access internet services when beforehand it was either not available in their area or very poor connection.
Labiosa has been a forerunner in Craig for a number of years now, pursuing the political side of life and bringing new ideas to Craig County.
He is currently Craig’s representative for the Economic Development Authority and the Republican nominee for the Craig City District seat on the Craig County Board of Supervisors.
“T-Mobile has been an amazing corporate partner with our community. When they partnered with our Broadband committee to bring us wireless 5G services while they were still in Beta testing, it added another internet option for many of our citizens, “shared Mayor Lenny McDonald. “And again, they have partnered with us on making New Castle a better place for residents. We now can move forward with a long-planned project, our Farmers Market!”
Jason Matyas was happy to hear about the proposed farmers market becoming a reality. Matyas is on the Craig County Board of Supervisors and is also a farmer himself.
He shared, “A lot of people here produce food on a small scale. A lot of those people will produce more than they consume and have extra to share with the community.”
Many people responded to the news on Facebook with excitement and anticipation, not only to buy items from local community members but also to have an opportunity to sell their own items and have an income from this great new venture.
Charlotte Rock shared, “I am really happy about it as it will be just around the corner from me.”
Though it will still take few months, the goal is to have it set up this fall, so everyone can look forward to this possibility and get their farming fingers moving in their gardens, whether fruits, vegetables or flowers.
“The new farmers market will enable our local producers to earn fair prices for their produce while connecting them directly with consumers. This direct interaction will not only enhance the quality and freshness of the food that our community consumes but also build stronger community ties,” McDonald said. “T-Mobile has given us this hometown grant so we could provide an opportunity for our local farmers. This Farmers Market will also provide a place where we can gather together, as a community, and get to know our neighbors and enjoy their products and efforts.”
He added, “T-Mobile has made an investment in our community that should pay dividends to us for years go come.”