THOMASVILLE — The new look at the Thomasville state farmers market is long overdue, according to a couple of Thomasville residents.

Work under way at the 502 Smith Ave. site will result in the installation of 1,600 feet of ornamental wrought iron-type fencing to replace a chain-link fence that has enclosed the market for decades.

“I think it’s going to enhance the market tremendously,” Cindy Lewis said Wednesday morning. “It’s always looked like an institution.”

Lewis has worked at family-owned Lewis Produce Co. for 23 of the more than 50 years the wholesale/retail business has operated at the market.

“I think the whole place needs improvement. It’s been here a lot of years. It needs an update,” Lewis added.

She said the new fence will make the market appear more open and inviting to people traveling on Smith, which also is U.S. 84.

“It’s like night and day,” Lewis said, comparing the old fence to the new.

A major part of the labor force removing the old fence and helping erect the new is a crew of Georgia Department of Corrections prisoners. The inmates, who have been working at the farmers market since early February, are being housed at Thomas County Prison.

The prisoners have repaired the portion of the old fence that will remain at the rear of the market. They also have painted and cleaned at the facility, said District 11 state Sen. John Bulloch, R-Ochlocknee.

“The state is trying to look after the property and make it more compatible to the community,” Bulloch said.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin described the Thomasville farmers market as an icon among the Peach State’s 16 farmers markets and probably among farmers markets nationwide.

“It’s so unique and does a good job and sets the standard for direct marketing,” the commissioner told the Times-Enterprise.

Irvin received requests from Thomasville and Thomas County government officials and from local legislators for help in making the market more attractive.

“One of the suggestions was a beautiful fence,” Irvin said.

Thomas County Commission Mary Jo Beverly made a specific fence request to Irvin about a year ago.

Beverly, who lives half a block from the market, described the old enclosure as an eyesore. “It’s something that’s been needed for over 20 years,” she said about the new fence.

The market is on a major corridor into the city and close to downtown, Beverly pointed out.

“A lot of people have worked diligently on downtown, and the market is nearby,” Beverly said.

Irvin said his department received three bids on the fence, with the highest being $100,000. The $73,000 bid approved was the lowest.

The project is funded primarily with state money and perhaps a small amount from federal grants, Irvin explained.

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