Buena Vista High School is about to be taught a new lesson in repurposing.
The building that once housed educators feeding young minds will one day be filled with farmers and vendors deeding mid-Michigan residents. The school closed in 2013 and will be re-opened, when redesigned, as a farmer's marketplace.
It's a huge goal to get a farmer's market going in that area.
“There's a lot of work ahead but definitely not intimidated,” Buena Vista Township Superintendent Torrie McAfee said. “Very excited about future and the opportunity of what we can do with the space. I mean, we have 40 acres available and the building itself is about 20,000 square feet.”
Twenty-thousand square feet of fresh food and great amenities envisioned by McAfee, very much like the SVRC Marketplace in Saginaw and the farmer's market in Flint.
Those markets, while great models, don't reflect the dire need for more fresh produce and revenue for farmers in the area.
“We've been designated by the department of agriculture as a food desert. As everyone knows, our last big chain grocery store closed in 2016,” McAfee said. “We have a great partnership with Save-A-Lot but we need more opportunities for our residents to be provided with fresh fruit, you know fresh produce.”
McAfee is seeking USDA funding and hoping for a response by summer's end. She is also looking for other project financing and working with a design architect and the township planners to keep the project growing.
Buena Vista Township is also forming a task force of dedicated volunteers to get inside the building and help with all aspects of repurposing the former high school from top to bottom, from clearing out and cleaning the building to marketplace planning and development.
“There's a lot of trash but then there's also some very good items that were left in the building as well, that would like to separate the trash from the treasure. We plan to have an auction with the items,” McAfee said. “Buena Vista's over 70 percent of agriculture here. We are really big with corn, sugar beets, and wheat.”
The vast majority of Buena Vista is dedicated to agriculture especially corn, sugar beets and wheat. It's only fitting to find a way to help the farmers and get more of their fresh food onto local tables.