A month after hearing the cons of allowing the Carroll County Tourism Department to sell wine, the Carroll County Board of Supervisors heard the opposing viewpoint Jan. 8.
During a Dec. 11 public hearing, three speakers spoke out against the Carroll County Tourism Department’s request to be allowed to sell regional wines to tourists and others who visit the Carroll County Visitor’s Center, located at the retail portion of the Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market. During the board’s Jan. 8 meeting, local farmer John Lynch spoke out in favor of the idea.
Lynch said he has been the only vendor to sell local produce at the new Hillsville Farmers Market, which is separate from the Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market, where the sale of wine is being proposed. He operates Silver Maples Farm in Carroll County. He said he has nothing but the highest regard and respect for the Brady sisters, who spoke against wine sales at the visitors’ center, and who own Brady’s Produce at the Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market.
“They have worked extremely hard to create a most impressive Farmers’ Market operation. Occasionally I purchase wholesale produce from them and they do the same from me. However, I feel I must disagree regarding their opposition of wine sales at our new visitors’ center now located at the retail farmers’ market facility,” Lynch said. “I am amazed there is actually any opposition to such a great idea. First of all, the rule against alcohol was actually put in place for a valid reason 25 years ago to prevent the possible sale of illegal alcohol at the farmers’ market. That was 25 years ago and times have changed. As far as suggesting wine sales should not be in the hands of county government, all hard liquor sold in Virginia must be purchased in state-run liquor stores by law.”
Lynch said to the best of his knowledge, none of Virginia’s state-run liquor stores can be held liable for any consequences related to the sale of their products. Lynch also disagreed with the notion of church groups being turned off to visiting the farmers’ market because of wine sales at the visitors’ center.
“Jesus turned water into wine and wine was served at the last supper. When my wife and I receive Holy Communion at our church we are served wine, which represents the blood of Christ,” Lynch said. “Wine is available at Food Lion, Dollar Discount, Walmart and other such stores. I know of no Christian that boycotts any of those stores because they happen to sell wine.”
Lynch said the relocated visitors’ center is now something that should make every resident of Carroll County extremely proud. Adding a nice display of regional wines would add another layer of excellence to what is already on display, he said, noting you will find no items there made in China or cheap, flea-market type items.
“Everything on display is the work of very talented local craftsmen and artisans. Many tourists from other states and counties visit the Carroll County Tourist Center and would just love to be able to purchase our fine regional wines to be able to take home with them, many to stock their wine cellars,” Lynch said. “Amanda Parris, the Tourist Center Director, has done a very commendable job creating a county visitors’ center we can all be extremely proud of. The passion she puts into that visitors’ center is very evident and to insinuate that she wants to create a saloon-type environment at our fine visitors’ center is like a slap in the face and far from the truth.”
Lynch said the insinuation that the tourist center discriminates against any legitimate farm in Carroll County is also “far from factual,” noting any productive farm can apply as a vendor at the farmers’ market.
“We have several fine wineries in Carroll County, all of whom work extremely hard to create their products. There are also a few upcoming small-scale wineries being created. All could be represented as part of a nice regional wine display at our very, very impressive visitors’ center,” Lynch said. “It is my hope that three or four of the supposed 980 farms in Carroll County, I think some of them might be harvesting tax breaks, will come forward and participate in our new downtown farmers’ market this year as I am the only produce vendor there.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN