New growers market sprouts up

With this week's start of a Saturday growers and crafters market in the Black Oak Village Shopping Center, Medford will have fresh, local produce and crafts in outdoor booths two days a week.

The new market, featuring 21 vendors at last count, will operate from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays through Oct. 29. A Thursday market has been going for years at the Medford Armory.

The shopping center is at the intersection of Black Oak Drive and Barnett Road in southeast Medford across Barnett from Rogue Valley Medical Center. Organizer-vendor Chris Cline said the site has much to offer — ample parking, power, water and access to single-family homes, "where people buy vegetables and cook."

The Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market explored several potential Saturday locations in downtown Medford — and was welcomed by economic development officials — but couldn't find a spot with adequate parking, booth locations, water and power, says Cline.

The group considered the Rogue Valley Mall, close to the market-poor "food desert" recently identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in north Medford, but the spot was too expensive, Cline says.

"It's our experience that most of our shoppers are from the southeast part of Medford, accessible to single-family homes," says Cline. "These are the people who buy vegetables and cook.

"It's very difficult to site a growers market. Growers have to have assurance they're going to get a return on their investment. It's about going where we're needed."

Saturday markets will operate in Medford and Ashland at the same time, offering vendors more opportunities to sell produce and products, though smaller growers may be able to attend only one of the markets, says Mary Ellen De Luca, manager of Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market for Tuesdays and Thursdays in both cities.

Larger farms, De Luca notes, will split up and cover both markets — and perhaps Saturday markets in Grants Pass and Jacksonville, as well.

Fans of fresh, local produce were "crying" for a Saturday market in Medford because many have jobs and couldn't make it to the weekday markets, she says.

Growers have been eager for more Saturday outlets because the Ashland market, newly located to downtown Oak Street, has fewer spaces than its previous spot in a large, downtown lot at Lithia Way and First Street, says Cline. The new location in the blocked-off Oak Street also has frustrated growers by allowing no on-site space to park trucks with inventory, he says.

The existing market sites have electronic bank teller machines that accept credit and debit cards and provide tokens accepted by vendors, but Cline says the machine is too expensive at this time for the Medford Saturday market.

However, he adds, the market is surrounded by three banks and will accept tokens purchased at other RVGCM markets.

The market earlier was in talks about using the former Scottish Rite site at Barnett and North Phoenix roads but construction by the property's new owner, Rogue Federal Credit Union, made that impossible, Cline said.

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