Having seen success at the Brooksville Farmers Market, the Hernando County Growers Association (HCGA) entered into a ten-year lease agreement with the county to move some of their operations to the Little Rock Cannery. The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved the lease.
An email statement from HCGA Director Michael Defelice explains, “Our proposal includes establishing regular and routine hours of operation for the public to use the cannery facility, the establishment of a Farmers Market featuring local produce and other agriculture products from our community, the construction of a commercial kitchen to serve as a commissary and business incubator for cottage food businesses, and future construction of a food hub for aggregation and distribution of Hernando grown produce to be offered to our school district and restaurants. This project will enhance agritourism in Hernando county as well.”
HCGA will pay an annual lease of $1 to the county. The county currently has a budget of $7,513 for the Little Rock Cannery, which was approved for the fiscal year 19/20. It covers the basics such as mowing, electric, utilities, insurance and bonds, repairs, maintenance, and boiler inspection. Over time, the HCGA will obtain grants, donations, and annual membership revenues to become self-sustaining. They will be required to maintain tenant insurance, employers and general liability policies and workers comp.
Before the regular BOCC meeting on January 28, 2020, Director Michael DeFelice spoke about the HCGA and its mission, and how its sheer success has necessitated the need for space. Additionally, it’s a logical move for the agricultural cooperative, which aims to provide farm-to-table items for local schools and restaurants.
DeFelice also commented on the unique venue helping to maintain Hernando’s rural lifestyle, while allowing for inevitable growth. The HCGA is registered 501(c) 3 Community
Development Organization with a defined structure and Board of Directors.
“…This isn’t a singular effort. This is actually a team of people that not all are here today, but all of these people are interested, willing, capable and able and dedicated to doing this and it truly does belong to the community, and these people represent the community. They’re part of the community and they should be recognized for their efforts. They’ve stuck with what we’ve been doing for the last two and a half years and they’re willing to carry it forever.”
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