Sustainable Table: Growers Market Grows

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ASHLAND, Ore. — The Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market is just about to wrap up its 25th year, but you can still get some fixings for winter soups or a Thanksgiving meal.

While it may look and feel a little bit different, the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market still has plenty to offer at the final two markets of the year. With about a dozen vendors this year, patrons had 170 vendors to select from overall.

“Not everybody comes at the same time because of the seasonality of different produce,” said Senior Market Manager, Mary Ellen De Luca.

This time of year, there are about 50 vendors. Thursday is the last market of the year in Medford and next Tuesday the final market in Ashland.

“And that’s so people can come and get their delicious food for their Thanksgiving meal,” Mary Ellen said.

One of the many vendors at the last two markets will be Whistling Duck Farm.

“Well we started out with 3/4 of an acre and a rottetiler,” explained the co-owner of Whistling Duck Farm, Vince Alionis, “and it was the beginning of this market in the early days. It was a much different thing.”

Vince Alionis says producers stretching the season past early October is one of the reasons the market has succeeded.

“People think, ‘Oh, the tomatoes are over, the peppers are over, there is nothing left,’ but there is great winter product here. Carrots, parsnips, root parsley, cabbages, cauliflower, we got some excellent product,” said Vince.

The variety provides  inspiration for customers like Diana. Diana Rasmussen has been shopping at the market since it opened 25 years ago.

“Making soups, and staying inside, and cooking soup, you know, when it’s starting to be cold outside, it just feels really good,” Diana said.

The market has helped vendors succeed through a variety of payment options, like credit and debit cards, and the use of food stamps, which have doubled at the Ashland markets.

“Considerable growth,” Mary Ellen observes, “this year especially.”

“We also get the WIC coupons and the senior coupons,” remarks Vince. “Which is also a great program, which brings people out to the market, especially elders. I mean, we see it all the time, people come out here, they’ve got their senior coupons, and we see them meeting people they haven’t seen in years. There is a social element to all that as well.”

After 25 years of growth, the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market is looking at even more.

“[We’re] considering a move to the Commons for our Saturday Medford Market,” said Mary Ellen.

Over the next four months, vendors like the Whistling Duck will be growing, too. So, come March 12th at the first market of 2013, there will be lots of options and maybe even some changes.