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Growers Market springs back to life

The much-anticipated and mostly organic Rogue Valley Growers Market is back for the season, which runs Tuesdays from early March through Thanksgiving at the National Guard Armory at the corner of Wightman and East Main streets.

Rain and hard wind drove some vendors and customers away Tuesday on its second week, but many pulled up their hoodies and plugged on.

The market has 30 new vendors, half of them farmers and half food-item people, who sell foods usually made by the themselves, says Mary Ellen De Luca, market operations manager for 13 years.

You’ll find a couple new food trucks and new vendors offering kimchi and Colombian food.

Between the Tuesday Ashland market, the Saturday Ashland market (which opens in May) and the Thursday Medford market (opened last week), the Growers Market has retained 115 vendors from last year. They closed the Saturday Medford market because of lack of vendors and customers, she notes. In part, the weekend Medford crowd declined because, she adds, so many people enjoyed going up to Grants Pass for their growers market.

We asked vendors and shoppers how it feels to have the much-esteemed cornucopia back and, along with it, a sorta town square, where people can hug, talk and catch up on news.

Mary Ellen De Luca — “It’s a wonderful thing. People love to support local farmers and food purveyors and let’s not forget the local crafters, who are all local people. They love to see them all face-to-face, interacting with them, so we get knowledge of where are food comes from and the people who actually make and grow it. The community loves this gathering place. It’s so positively pleasant and full of great quality food. It’s grass roots and straight to you, the consumer. The people here are amazing.”

Madeline Rutkai, Fry Family Farm (between Ashland and Medford) — “It’s so amazing to be back at the market and have growing season starting. We’re selling lots of starts, which we grow for the summer.”

Maria DiMaggio, Higher Power Raw Food — “I pulled it together to get back here after three months off. It’s great seeing vendors and all the friends we’ve made. It’s all organic here. We sprout all the nuts and seeds so they’re easy to digest. The beets, miso, kale, garbanzo beans, all of it is local. This market is quite a social event, especially when it’s sunny and there’s music.”

Jonathan Frank — “It’s awesome. The farmers provide amazing quality, fresh food. You can’t find this quality anywhere else. I come as often as I can. I like to support the local producers of food and talk to the farmers.”

Maddy McIlwain — “I always come here. I love the energy and love to see what local people are creating. The people are so friendly here. I especially come here to see them.”

Rachel Stark, Artisan Bread in the Little Applegate — “It’s fantastic and a great place to sell bread. We’re able to reach out to the community beyond the Little Applegate and meet new people and new customers for our bread. It was baked last night. This is pretty exciting.”

— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.