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“Try it and then buy it” at area farmers markets this Saturday

If you’ve ever been intimidated by the volume of local produce staring back at you from farmers market stalls this time of year, you’ll find some tasty assistance at area farmers markets this weekend.

On Saturday, a program called the “Vegucation Station” will officially debut at the Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania and King George Farmers markets (you can find hours and locations on these markets here).

The Vegucation Stations are market booths staffed by volunteers from the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the area health department and Germanna Community College’s nursing school. You can expect to find fresh food preparation demonstrations, samples and recipes. According to cooperative extension agent La Wanda Wright, the program is made to appeal to everyone in the family and the point is to allow shoppers to “try it and buy it” as they browse the local markets.

You may have seen these booths being tested at these three markets earlier in the season. They are partly the product of more than $100,000 in federal grants the three markets–under the umbrella organization The Farmers Market Co–won late last year.

Wright said one objective of these grants is to promote education about healthy eating and to encourage recipients of SNAP food assistance benefits, or food stamps, to use their benefits to buy fresh foods from local farms. Market managers met with a number of community groups, including departments of social services, the Health Department, Germanna, the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank and area Head Start programs, to devise a program that would reach as many families as possible.

The effort has gotten attention from outside the area.

According to Spotsylvania Market Manager Elizabeth Borst, an official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will visit the Spotsylvania market, and possibly others in the area, on July 14. It’s part of a tour meant to highlight what the USDA sees as “success stories” that demonstrate effective use of its grants to build local food systems.

If you’re out shopping this Saturday, look for the Vegucation Station booths, complete with their own signs. That’s not the only thing going on at area markets this weekend, though.

King George’s market will host its monthly community day, featuring woodcarver Sy Jarvis and presentations from the King George Animal Rescue League and Master Gardeners Plant Clinic. The King George Moms Club will host a Kids’ Space, with a special activity for young market visitors. The market’s new “Fields to Table” cookbook, as well as King George Farmers Market T-Shirts, will be available for sale.

Fredericksburg will hold its second “First Saturday” market of the season. The city will close the block of Prince Edward Street between William and George streets to accommodate more vendors than usual, and provide more room for shoppers.

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