DEXTER, Maine — The first phase of a renovation project to convert the former Fossa General Store into a farmers market and general store officially has begun in downtown Dexter.
S.J. Wood Construction Co. of Winthrop, which bid $244,979 for the project, was awarded a contract this month to renovate the building.
Dexter Regional Development Corp., through the town of Dexter, received a nonprofit Community Development Block Grant of $230,000 for the work.
All of the bids submitted were higher than anticipated, so the work plan had to be scaled back to fit the lowest of the bids, according to Judy Craig, a member of the corporation and executive director of the farm project, both of which are unpaid positions.
Despite that setback, Craig said this week, “We’re very excited about the work starting.”
The corporation also is pleased that the general contractor plans to hire local subcontractors to complete the project, she added.
That project will cover primarily the foundation costs, the renovation of the addition in the back of the building and the exterior walls, and installation of new windows.
Craig said the corporation and town officials are working to secure additional grants to complete the project.
Backers of the project, which include many regional farmers, are working not only for a farm store, but also a demonstration kitchen, a warehouse to store the farm produce and a creamery where milk and milk products can be processed in public view.
The latter would provide residents in the region with fresher milk since some milk is trucked to Vermont where it is bottled and then returned to Maine for sale.
Farmers say the project would help maintain the open space and farmland now being used, and quite possibly open up more land for farming while keeping dollars local.
“We should be more sustainable in our own area,” farmer Fred Sherburne said.
The store would sell products made at the creamery, as well as products grown or raised within a 50-mile radius.