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Group to donate empty Winn Dixie store to Southwest Georgia Project

SGP plans to convert the facility into a farmers market and food hub

As reported in the Albany Herald:

ALBANY — An affiliate of Phoenix Investors, LLC, based in Milwaukee, will donate a former Albany Winn-Dixie grocery store to Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc. (Southwest Georgia Project) next Friday. The building is located near intersection of Radium Springs Road and E. Oakridge Drive.

The gift, valued at $2.35 million, will give the Southwest Georgia Project, which is a non profit organization that advocates for social justice through grassroots organizing, the chance to build a food hub/farmer’s market for farmers in Southwest Georgia and Albany residents.

“This is great news. Lots of farmers in 10 to 15 surrounding counties — farmers black and white, some with smaller acreages and some with larger — will have a place where their crops can be cleaned, processed, packaged and shipped for consumption” Southwest Georgia Project Executive Director Shirley Sherrod said. “That’s been a problem to this point, especially as local farmers have sought to target schools.”

Phoenix officials said the company team is dedicated to helping revitalize communities impacted by plant closings and promoting wellness in the workplace.

We are thrilled to have the opportunity to give this building to an organization that will be able to do tremendous good not only for area farmers but for the local economy,

said Frank Crivello, executive vice president, Phoenix Investors.

David Marks, managing director, Phoenix Investors. added, “This project will bring new healthy choices to the Dougherty County area. I’m excited that our donation will transform a vacant building into a thriving food hub.”

The 46,890-square-foot building sits on 3.9 acres of land. Southwest Georgia Project hopes to team up with local healthcare facilities, educational entities and other community partners to bring life to this project.

The Southwest Georgia area grows a large quantity of produce but most of it is exported out to other areas. The new venue will provide an opportunity for locals to buy fresh produce and for farmers to sell their goods.

Southwest Georgia Project expects the hub to serve at least 100 farmers to use it as a means to market and sell their produce.

“That is a very large building, and while I can’t see us using all 47,000 square feet for a farmers market, we are looking into what other food-related activities we can have there,” Sherrod said. “We’ve had Loed Fellows at Harvard who received a small grant to work with us come up with great ideas on how we can utilize the space, and some of them are coming here Sunday through Tuesday to discuss things they can do with us over the year.”

Months in the making, Sherrod has referred to the project as a “game changer” for small and larger vegetable producers because finally they will be able to grow and bring their production for proper handling and marketing.

“This is a game-changer for our region. It’s an opportunity to, among other things, add jobs, not just (at the facility) but on the farms, too” she said. “And one of the other benefits is that we’ve worked hard to get women who are widows or own land involved in raising food again. This will help us encourage them.”

Sherrod added the Southwest Georgia Project is still working out the details regarding who will be funding the renovations on the building and when it will open for business.

“This is not in any way about Shirley Sherrod, this will give people in our rural area opportunities to participate in farmers markets, many for the first time,” Sherrod said.”The people from (Phoenix Investors) are really excited about this, too. Sure, they no longer will be responsible for taxes on the property, but they see it as a way to give to our community, too.”

Southwest Georgia Project wants to involve all aspects of the community in planning and implementing this project. For more information on how to get involved with this project, contact Amber Bell at (229) 430-9870 or via email at bell.a@swgaproject.com.