The Walton Family Foundation on Wednesday announced plans for a $31 million food hub in downtown Springdale that will support farmers and entrepreneurs in the region.
The 45,000-SF Market Center of the Ozarks will provide crop aggregation capabilities, commercial kitchens and community spaces for technical assistance and culinary education. Farmers will also have access to washrooms, cold and dry storage, loading docks and office space.
The project is expected to enhance the distribution of locally grown food and improve access to affordable fruits and vegetables in underserved communities, the foundation said in a news release.
It will also bring the potential for new jobs in the region by providing an incubation space for food startups.
The project is part of the Northwest Arkansas Food Systems initiative, which aims to strengthen the capacity of small and mid-size farmers.
Construction on the facility at 713 E. Meadow Avenue is expected to begin in June with a completion date in early 2024. The architecture firm Patterhn Ives of St. Louis is overseeing the building's design.
The facility's name recognizes Springdale's agricultural heritage. The first known use of the phrase was on a 1950s chamber of commerce billboard welcoming visitors to the area and hailing it as the "Main Street of N.W. Arkansas" and “Market Center of the Ozarks," the release says.
"Market Center of the Ozarks is another bold step to position Northwest Arkansas as a national model for locally grown food," said Tom Walton, the foundation's home region program committee chair. "This innovation and community hub will offer farmers and entrepreneurs the support they need to get healthy food on tables across the region."