Using Everything

An elderly woman wearing animal print glasses and a bright red shirt stands smiling. Photo credit: Kevin Hudson
Ann Tackett took part in creating a farmers market and renovating the old railroad depot building.

Aberdeen Main Street collaborates and thrives

Story by Nathan Gregory • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Before Ann Tackett helped establish a farmers market and renovate the old railroad depot building in her town, she just wanted to start a cannery.

About a month after completing a grant application with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Appalachian Regional Commission, and Environmental Protection Agency, the Aberdeen Main Street director received word that it was accepted.

Video by Michaela Parker

Each project she has taken on in her role since then has been accomplished through involvement from a wide range of partners—everyone from national organizations to local produce growers to county jail trustees.

“My strength is in building bridges and partnerships,” Tackett explains. “If I didn’t partner with Extension, the sheriff’s office, and our community, there is no way that we could have ever gotten this done.”

“My strength is in building bridges and partnerships,” Tackett explains. “If I didn’t partner with Extension, the sheriff’s office, and our community, there is no way that we could have ever gotten this done.”

Ann Tackett

Tackett says the Mississippi State University Extension Service has been one of her most dependable resources along the way.

Extension educators train members of Monroe County’s Master Gardener program and teach canning classes. Monroe County Extension Agent Randall Nevins was on the committee that worked to acquire grant funding, and Extension Instructor Dr. Rachael Carter has been working with Tackett on various projects to promote local foods and secure new funding to continue improving the facility.

“Ann is the perfect example of how you do community development in a small town,” Carter explains. “She reaches out to everybody she thinks can help execute her vision, and she makes something happen with limited resources by getting community buy-in. She identifies a problem she wants to solve and brings in the people with the skills needed to help.”

Two examples illustrate Tackett’s strategy: Tackett recruited members of a Mennonite group in her county to can some of the produce they grew to build inventory for the cannery and to teach food-preparation classes. And, as a member of her local food pantry board, Tackett worked with Walmart personnel in New Albany to collect leftover food to be canned so it would not go to waste.

After receiving the grant funding to start the cannery, Aberdeen Main Street was given the depot building formerly used by Kansas City Railroad, a structure that was “just about to fall in,” as Tackett puts it.

Architecture students from the MSU Carl Small Town Center were brought in to draw up renovation plans. Tackett partnered with the Monroe County Work Center to have inmates perform the construction and landscaping using some of the structure’s original bricks and wood.

“I have been with Ms. Ann on this project from the beginning. We saw, as a group, a vision of what it could be and the things we could do to help the community,” Nevins says. “We had some people put in some volunteer time working with inmates to help clean out the structure, and they placed some of the bricks into a walkway between the depot and the rail system. They removed a lot of the old loading dock and repurposed some of the wood to build a ramp to the building for people with disabilities.”

After years of planning and labor, Aberdeen Main Street had a grand opening in August 2019 for its renovated depot, which is the home base for its farmers market, canning program, educational cooking classes, and monthly food distribution days through the county’s food pantry.

After receiving USDA grant funding to add deep freezer units to the facility, Aberdeen Main Street can now expand its food preservation capabilities to cold storage.

“MSU and Extension really stepped up and helped make the depot a beautiful building,” she says. “The farmers market and cooking and canning classes are a good social outlet for our town. Everyone loves it, and all it took was a little bit of passion and cooperation.”

MSU Extension Service
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