A-State plans for new indoor facility at Farmer's Market

Arkansas State University’s architectural rendering of the new Judd Hill Farmer’s Market.

JONESBORO – Arkansas State University’s farmers’ market is celebrating three things this year: a new name, a new facility and its 15th anniversary.

The new name stems from a $2.4 million donation from The Judd Hill Foundation that will allow the college to build a new indoor facility directly in front of the existing outdoor facility.

The existing space will be doubled by the addition of a second building that adds indoor spaces, classroom facilities and other amenities to expand the operations of the farmers’ market, according to a press release issued by the university.

The Arkansas State University System Board of Trustees opted to rename the farmers’ market to the Judd Hill Foundation Farmers’ Market during its March 12 meeting.

The new indoor facility was the idea of Mickey Latour, dean of the College of Agriculture.

“This was a natural extension of the college’s Discover 2025 strategic plan,” Latour said. “We wanted to bring about new opportunities.”

With the addition of an enclosed space, events such as tractor shows, car shows, college recruitment events and music events will become possible, Latour said.

“We want this to be not just be a part of the university, but also be a way to engage with the community,” he said.

A commercial kitchen is included in the design of the new facility, and Latour said there are many ideas floating around.

“Say you have a vendor who comes in and they sell tomatoes. They want to take their product to the next level and want to create a salsa. We would be able to help them do that,” he said. “Another idea we have tossed around is teaching students how to make french fries out of rice. There would be a tremendous amount of research. The testing could be done at (the kitchen).”

Latour said the college wants to have the opportunity for students to be able to push the envelope as well as help the community.

The existing outdoor facility was the brainchild of Kim Pittcock, who is chairwoman of Board of Director’s of the Judd Hill Farmers’ Market.

“There was a big need and a lack of a farmers’ market in the area,” said Pittcock. “I grew up with farmers’ markets in Texas, and I told the previous dean of agriculture I was interested in that.”

Pittcock said even though the pandemic caused the farmers’ market to take a hit, in the last 15 years, there have been about 33,000 customers served at the facility.

She said she is excited about the prospect of a new indoor facility.

“I think it will be a great compliment to the existing facility,” she said. “We will be able to potentially extend the season.”

The farmers’ market is set to open on the customary first Saturday in May.

“We don’t have the guidelines for the season yet, but we are on A-State property so we will follow their guidelines,” she said.

Pittcock said the market will stay open from May until the last Saturday in October. Tuesdays begin in June and last until August.