The building was dedicated in honor of Terry Benefield, correctional officer with the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Department and manager of the inmate worker program. Benefield has organized inmate labor to work on many projects, said County Commissioner Emmett Owen.
“All of the projects I’ve done throughout the county,” Owen said, “I couldn’t have done it without Terry Benefield.”
The new Heflin Farmers’ Market opened a little early for most of the farmers whose produce was not ready for sale. But excited area residents turned out for the event to view the new facility.
“It’s very nice, said Jeanette Powell, a lifelong resident of Heflin said as she rested on a bench and waved to people she knew. “I can see a lot of people coming out and getting produce, but socializing too.”
The red pavilion, complete with bathrooms, a concrete floor and electricity, was built next to the Chamber of Commerce on Ross Street, to provide a dedicated space for the farmers who used to set up in the park across from the Heflin Recreation Center. But Owen said, who asked the County Com-mission to allocate money to the project and helped out with the construction, the building will be available for other events as well.
The building truly was a community wide project, Owen said. The Cleburne County Commission provided $17,000 for the project. County Commissioner Bobby Brooks brought out his own tractor and graded the site to prepare it for construction, Owen said. American Drain and Cleaning donated the plumbing for the bathrooms and water lines, he said. Webb Concrete provided concrete, rebar and lumber for the project at cost, Owen said. Inmates, supervised by Benefield, provided much of the labor, he added. Owen donated the electrical work and the doors, he said.
The building drew a number of vendors to the site to check it out.
Jim Raughton, who was selling fried apple pies, pear honey, homemade salsa and peppers, said he “toughed it out” when the farmers market was in the park, but was very pleased with the new facility.
Raughton’s a veteran market vendor and already has every Saturday booked until November, he said.
He especially liked that the facility had bathrooms and the new location’s high visibility. He thought once people saw it, it would be a big draw to vendors.
“After today, it might not be big enough,” he said.
Next to him, Sandra Mix from Muscadine had set up birdhouses she made from reclaimed wood and modeled after local buildings and barns. Mix said the new building was a big factor in her deciding to set up Saturday.
“I’m glad it’s in Heflin to promote local business,” Mix said.
Sandy Weston said the building brought back memories from her youth of the fair in Heflin. There hasn’t been a fair in Heflin for more than 30 years, Weston said.
“Everybody looked forward to the fair,” Weston said. “That’s the only place (the farmers) had to sell locally.”
Some of the people noted how much nicer the facility will be for older people who weren’t able to navigate the farmers market at the park and there is parking close to the pavilion for those who have a hard time walking.
“It was very rough over there under the trees,” Powell said. “My mother’s older and she couldn’t get out and walk around.”
Misty Owen, Emmett Owen’s daughter-in-law, was watching the children in the bouncy castle. She said the pavilion should let the local farmers know how much the community values them.
“It’s nice to feel appreciated and I bet that’s who they feel,” she said.
The Farmer’s Market will set up in the pavilion on Tuesdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tanya Maloney, executive director of the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce, said shoppers can expect to see more produce later in the growing season.
Staff writer Laura Camper 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.