Gayle Rondeel standing under her fig tree in her home in Rimbey.  She was nominated for the Outstanding Market Manager of the Year Award from AFMA. The award ceremony was held March 1, 2022. (submitted)

Outstanding market manager sows seeds of gratitude

Gayle Rondeel nominated for outstanding farmers’ market manager of the year

Gayle Rondeel’s parents, who were busy Rimbey restaurant owners, gave their seven children a list of chores that needed to be done around the home. Instead of delegating, they allowed each child to choose their chore. Rondeel chose the garden.

The seed of possibility that was planted many years ago, continues to grow. This year Rondeel, who first moved to Rimbey as a toddler, was nominated for the third time for Outstanding Market Manager of the Year, with Alberta Farmers’ Market Association (AFMA).

For Rondeel, to be nominated by her peers is the greatest reward and one she is tremendously grateful for.

“Being nominated is, in my books, better than a win because you are nominated by the people who know you,” says Rondeel, who has managed the Rimbey Farmers’ Market for 16 years.

During that time, she has played a significant role in its growth, going from seven regular vendors to 35 – and a waiting list. She says that much of her success comes from maintaining a positive attitude, having a sense of humour and living the notion of reaping what you sow – “10-fold.” The nomination illustrates this with the immense amount of appreciation she has for the many customers, a supportive board and, most of all, the vendors, who to her have become “like family.”

“It always amazes me what people produce in their home,” says Rondeel. “There are a lot of really talented people out there.”

According to the vendor of four years, Shirly Zotzman, Rondeel is very deserving of the recognition because of her hard work and ability to see the value in what each person brings to the table.

“She shows no favouritism,” says Zotman, adding that to Rondeel, everyone is important.

Zotzman says she has noticed many new customers since the market moved to its new location at the Quality Inn and Suites in Rimbey, along Highway 20, which is not only good for the vendors, but for the town itself.

Christie Fleck, business manager for the AFMA, says that buying from local businesses “has a ripple effect in communities.” She adds that studies show that the amount that goes back into a local economy is four and a half times the amount compared to multinational corporations.

Rondeel says that buying from a local farmers market circulates even more back, especially with about 85 per cent of the Rimbey vendors being local. The food is not only fresh, she says that the closer your food is grown to where you live, the more compatible you are with your food.

“When you grow it yourself, you add in that extra component. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Known as “the face of the market,” because she is there every day with a smile and a helping hand, Rondeel not only manages the market, she too is a vendor, which offers her an opportunity to connect with people as she sells her own grown garden vegetables, from Germane Market Gardens, which began in 1997.

Rondeel is now in her third term as a Rimbey town councillor and has always exemplified the importance of community involvement as a business owner, volunteer and as mom. She believes that farmers’ markets offer opportunities to learn and to teach, as she has done with her own children, all of whom garden themselves.

Dorian Rondeel, 32, the youngest of the three boys, says that if he had to describe his mom with one word it would be “dedicated” because of the “consistent amount of effort and attention” she puts into so many things. Growing up “in a garden” and having worked alongside his mom for many years at the markets, he knows he is fortunate to have the skills and the knowledge that his mom has passed onto him and his brothers.

“It’s definitely something I feel very fortunate to have,” says Dorian.

Although Gayle Rondeel did not win this year, she has won the award twice before. With 2022 being “The Year of the Garden,” she has much to look forward to. The spring market will be held at the Peter Lougheed Community Centre on April 16 and then the start of the summer market, which is held every Saturday from May to Thanksgiving, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Her greatest rewards will continue to flourish as she enjoys the many blossoms from the seeds of gratitude being planted all around her.