Taxpayers Spent $660K On Market

INWOOD, W.Va. – When the West Virginia Department of Agriculture chose to close the Inwood Farmers’ Market in 2014 and privatize it, one of the stated reasons was the market’s unprofitably. Recent audit results show that the farmers market lost a significant amount of revenue over a sustained period.

In a recent audit of the Department of Agriculture, the report states the Inwood Farmers’ Market lost about $100,000 per year over six years, despite receiving funds from a revolving loan program through the department in 2011.

Under former Agriculture Commissioner Gus Douglass, the department spent $662,000 in federal funds on refrigeration upgrades for the market, despite continuous failing profits.

“If a proper cost/benefit analysis had been performed by WVDA, the analysis would have shown the savings produced by replacing the old units with more energy efficient units would not reduce energy costs enough to create a profit for the market,” the audit states.

According to Butch Antolini, director of communications for the department, once current Commissioner Walt Helmick took office, one of the first actions he took was to request the audit.

“Even before the audit came out, Commissioner Helmick realized the Department of Agriculture was losing significant money by trying to operate the market. That’s why steps were taken to privatize it and put it out to lease,” Antolini said.

The department solicited bids in February to lease the space as a farmers market and cold storage unit, with the winning bid awarded to the Taylor family, who opened Taylor’s Farm Market in May.

“They criticized us for making a large investment (in the farmers market), but that was the previous administration. We didn’t have anything to do with that part. believe that we’ve got the proper fix for that. We’re hopeful that, over time, it’s going to play out successfully,” he said.

Since reopening the farm market, Ryan Taylor said Helmick has been to the farm market multiple times and is “supportive” of the family’s effort.

“We knew when we submitted our bid what we were up against. We knew we needed to turn the market around and rebuild the market from the ground up,” Taylor said.

The facility contains approximately 11,975 square feet of retail space and 20,625 square feet of cold storage space. The WVDA will retain ownership of the building. Unlike with the previous farmers market, the WVDA now receives income through the lease, renting the facility and equipment to the Taylor’s Farm Market for $48,000 a year.