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Startup farm market to grow in Mayfield

The Mayfield farmers market will expand next year after a successful first season, Fredericksburg City Manager Bev Cameron said.

The Mayfield market opened on Aug. 1 and ran on Thursday afternoons along Dixon Street at Tyler Street.

It was originally to close for the season on Sept. 26 but was extended through October because of its popularity, said Mike Morrelli, one of Fredericksburg’s two farmers market managers.

Forty to 60 customers visited the market each Thursday, he said.

Next year, the plan is to extend the season and its offerings, Cameron said in a report to City Council.

The market will open in mid-May or as soon as the first local produce is available, and continue through October, Morrelli said. He is considering adjusting the hours by a half hour to 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. to allow more time for people traveling home from work to reach the market.

Alvarez Produce of Warsaw, whose staff is bilingual, was the vendor for the first year and provided fresh produce.

The goal for the second year is to find a vendor who can offer items such as meat, eggs and honey in addition to produce, Morrelli said.

The Mayfield community was selected for a market because it had been identified by the federal government as one of the region’s “food deserts.” The term refers to low-income communities where at least one-third of the residents live more than a mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.

The idea is to provide access to fresh, healthful food in those areas.

The closest groceries to the community include the Food Lion on State Route 2 in Spotsylvania, a Food Lion on State Route 3 in Stafford or Nader’s Grocery in downtown. Efforts to reach those locations are hampered by the lack of FRED buses on Saturdays.

Fredericksburg’s main farmers market operates at Hurkamp Park from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Cameron reported an increase in the use of a token program, which suggested an increase in customers this year. People who don’t have cash can buy tokens in $5 increments using a credit card, for a $2 fee.

People with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program cards—which replaced food stamps—also get tokens to buy at the markets.

Credit purchases of tokens increased by 15 percent over 2012 and SNAP purchases increased by 36 percent, Cameron reported. The value of tokens obtained increased 24 percent, meaning people were spending more.

Through a USDA grant and support from local businesses, SNAP customers get a $10 match for use at the region’s markets if they spend at least $10.

A downtown fitness group donated its class fee proceeds to the bonus program, Cameron reported.

Relay Foods, which in October started delivering groceries to customers twice a week at Hurkamp Park, donates its park usage fee to help with outreach and education at the market, he reported.

This year, the city had a different theme for each First Saturday to give community service organizations a chance to showcase their offerings.

The most popular First Saturday theme was June’s “Kids Market,” which will be offered again next season, Cameron said.

The Kids Market lets youths 15 and under operate booths, selling their handmade items. It also included entertainment by a pre-teen band known as “Home By Midnight.”

Nearly every booth was taken and the items sold quickly, Cameron reported.

Those participating on other First Saturdays included Hope House, Central Rappahannock Regional Library, Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center, Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, and Rappahannock Area Agency on Aging.

Morrelli said he worked at each Mayfield market day this year. He observed that customers included residents of the Mayfield and nearby Hazel Hill and those driving by on their way home along Routes 2 and 17.

He also noted that market day provided an opportunity for neighbors to get together and catch up.

“It was a nice social time for them,” he said.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972