Brandon Bigham, with sprayer, and his cousin, Blake, both 13, spritzed their vegetables about every 20 minutes to keep them from drying up in Thursday's heat at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market. - Bob Pennell

Growers Market was cookin'

MEDFORD — Vendors and vegetables alike shriveled under the merciless sun Thursday at the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market at the Medford Armory.

"Between the economy and the heat — it's hurting us," said Doug Bigham, who is a fourth-generation, Rogue Valley farmer and 18-year vendor at the growers market.

Sixty-two vendors hid from the heat beneath canopies at the Armory — 10 fewer than last week. Thursday's open-air market runs from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., but because of the heat and the lack of customers, vendors have been shutting down a little earlier.

The high temperature recorded at the Medford airport was 105 degrees, 4 degrees below Wednesday's high and 2 degrees below the record of 107 set in 2003.

"Some people who couldn't take the heat didn't come," said Mary Ellen De Luca, the market membership coordinator. "We might close at 1 today if the people aren't here, and the vendors are ready to go."

Bigham joined with his father, Ken, son, Brandon, 13, and nephew, Blake, 13, in spraying their cucumbers, tomatoes, Walla Walla sweet onions, green beans and squash about every 20 minutes to keep them from drying up.

"It's been good till about 10:30," Bigham said. "What's really affecting us is the sales because the people aren't coming out."

Sales were down about a third for Bigham Farms, but Bigham noted a high sport: He sold out of 600 ears of corn in two hours.

Patty Turk, a Medford grower, said she waters her herbs and vegetable starts about twice a day on hot days. This is her 17th year participating at the growers market.

"I still have to soak, soak, soak the heck out of them," said Turk. "It doesn't matter if it's 95 (degrees) to 105, my sales are normally like this. Things will start picking up as things start cooling off."

Louis Jeandin, a French mushroom forager and vendor, used wet towels and ice packs to keep his morels, maitake, chanterelles and other varieties of mushrooms cool.

"The heat and breeze dehydrates them so I lose about a fifth of my weight," Jeandin said. "I sweat bullets, too."

While some vendors fought, sprayed and iced their plants and produce, Rebecka Santillan at Katrina's Salsa booth had a steady line of customers wanting her no-sugar-added fruit-infused water and strawberry limeade. She said she sells about six gallons of each when it's hot.

Barb Foster and her daughter, Kira, owners of CROM Cafe also had more appreciation than most for the hot weather.

"There's fewer people at the market, but it's so hot we have a lot of customers coming for drinks," Foster said.

She said the smoothies were the most popular "'cause they're blended and cold and stay cold."

Despite the heat, some dedicated market customers ventured out. De Luca guessed that about 50 percent of the regulars showed up for Thursday's market.

One Growers Market fan and her husband strolled from booth to booth and purchased strawberries, green beans and tomatoes along the way. Although this is her first market trip this year, Sue Musolf of Medford said she normally is a regular customer because "we don't have room in our yard for a garden," and she enjoys making pickles and dilly beans and eating fresh produce.

"People are dedicated," De Luca said. "They realize they can come here and get the best the valley has to offer."

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