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Opening weekend for Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania farmers markets

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Farmers markets in downtown Fredericksburg and at Spotsylvania’s Gordon Road commuter lot officially kick off their managed seasons this Saturday. You can find full information on these and other markets in our region here. Elizabeth Borst will return as the manager of the Spotsylvania market, and here is a story about the two new managers at the Fredericksburg market.

The two new managers of Fredericksburg’s downtown farmers market both trace their roots back to family farms, and have had varied connections with the food industry over the course of their careers.

Gayle Price and Michael Morrelli, both Spotsylvania residents, have been hired as this year’s market managers, sharing a part-time position funded through Fredericksburg’s parks and recreation department.

This is the second year the parks department has managed the market at Hurkamp Park, and Price and Morrelli will lead some new initiatives, including expanded markets on selected weekdays, the closing of Prince Edward Street for three summer markets and a renewed focus on using the market’s website and social media channels to boost awareness.

Morrelli recently retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he spent his career in produce inspection at locations all over the country. From 2007 until he retired last year, he was the department’s National Program Supervisor for produce inspection in Washington, D.C.

This career in food began with a childhood spent on a family farm in central California. Morrelli was experienced in planting, cultivating and harvesting crops before he was a teenager.

He said he’s interested in using his experience and knowledge in the farming and food safety fields to help the city market’s vendors in any way he can, but overall, he said, “I just want to see the market grow and do well. Let’s help the farmers to sell more and let’s get more people interested.”

He’ll be working on that with Price, who has a marketing background, keeps a food blog and runs her own small business, The Farmer’s Daughter, selling cake pops and other goodies, as well as some prepared meals.

Price grew up on farms as well, first in Arkansas and then in central Virginia. She is a graduate of Mary Washington College.

Price is an admitted foodie who documents a lot of her kitchen creations on the wordpress blog, “The Secret Life of Mrs. Bundt.”

But while she grew up eating home-grown produce, she knows there’s a disconnect for many folks these days between the food on their plate and the farms that grow it.

“My daughter thinks food comes from Wegmans,” she jokes.

Filling that knowledge gap is one thing that drew her to the market manager job. She’s using her marketing experience to try to strengthen the market’s presence on the web, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

She and Morrelli are both combing through vendor applications to expand some of Fredericksburg’s weekday markets–while the market has vendors most days of the week, it has until now only been managed on Saturdays.

Price and Morrelli hope to add a managed Wednesday market and Tuesday markets that correspond with the “Picnic in the Park” lunchtime concert series, which will move to Hurkamp from the Riverfront Park this year. These concerts run every Tuesday in May, June and September.

The goal is to have a full array of vendors at those markets, including produce, meat and bread.

Fredericksburg will also continue to partner with the Spotsylvania and King George markets to run the website, and to offer tokens to allow credit cards and SNAP food assistance benefits to be used at the market. SNAP customers can receive matching funds of up to $10 a week to spend at the market, thanks to grant money.

These market managers also have a few other new things in store for this year, including a series of educational presentations and a buy-local challenge.

But for now, Price and Morrelli say they just want to get to know the market’s vendors and consumers as well as they can.

“We always want people to stop by and see us at the market, say hello and offer suggestions,” Price said.  “Anything that you would buy at the grocery store, short of chips, we would like for you to come buy at the market.”