The market's carnival air is gone, replaced by rain and chill. But local farmers are sticking out the season, selling the fruits of fall for one more week.
Weather is always a deciding factor in the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market's final days, says manager Mary Ellen DeLuca. But some customers are just as dedicated as vendors, stocking up against the four long months ahead without weekly markets.
What: Final sessions of the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market for this season
When: 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, and Thursday, Nov. 20
Where: Tuesday at the Ashland armory, 1420 E. Main St., Ashland; Thursday at the Medford armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway, Medford.
"We go whether it's raining, snowing — whatever," says 53-year-old Dave Heckley, of Ashland. "The quality of the products are just so much better."
That quality and customers' increasing awareness of and support for the local economy helped farmers endure rapidly rising fuel prices this year, during which consumers also faced mounting costs for food. Although some customers have cut their purchases back by as much as half, farmers say they are pleased with the season's outcome and optimistic about next year.
"I wasn't expecting much, and it's been a wonderful year," says Teri White of Runnymede Farm near Rogue River.
The market, DeLuca says, signed on record numbers of vendors this year in both Ashland and Medford, as well as added a second session in Ashland on Saturdays, which already has wrapped up for the year. Returning to the market's Medford sessions after 15 years away, owners of Whistling Duck Farm in Applegate found plenty of demand for their produce, even with competition from more vendors.
"It was better than I remembered," says Mary Alionis, co-owner of Whistling Duck. "I feel really good about the Medford market."
Whistling Duck didn't raise prices this year, even when they were forced to absorb the cost of more expensive fuel, Alionis says. With 17 years of experience farming in Jackson County, she and husband, Vince, don't have plans to change anything for next year because their mix of products has been successful.
Although market prices can be higher than grocery-store counterparts, spending by food stamp recipients is on the rise, managers say. Several hundred dollars in food stamps were charged at every Saturday market in Ashland, says manager Tracy Harding. The market started processing Oregon Trail Cards, the state's electronic debit system for food assistance, this summer.
Customers like 29-year-old Kat Smith of Ashland factor in the environmental cost of food purchased in grocery stores as part of the overall bill. Smith says — regardless of price — she prefers knowing her food traveled only a short distance from a local farm rather than across the country.
Heckley stresses appreciation for the very purpose of a local farmers market: buying produce when its at its peak.
"If you buy in season, I would say it's comparable to the stores."
Enjoy late-season produce, including beets, celery root, fennel, greens, turnips and winter squash in the following recipes.
Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 776-4487, or e-mail email@example.com.