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One market stays put; splinter moves

Group's membership was divided

In a whirlwind of last-minute activity, a new organization of vendorsstepped in to operate a market on Medford's Main Street.

The Medford Planning Commission approved the market Thursday, but theconditional use permit was awarded to the Rogue Valley Farmers Market, anew venture headed by Debra Osborne.

She says she created the new organization after the membership of theoriginal applicant, Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Association, was splitover whether to move from Medford Center to Main Street.

Osborne resigned as manager of the Growers and Crafters Association theday before the hearing. Osborne, who had been manager for three years, saidshe resigned to avoid a conflict of interest.

She said the vast majority of the vendors supported the moveto Main Street and the move was supported in three votes by the group's200 members. But the group's board of directors didn't want to leave behindthe 10 percent who wanted to stay, she said.

So she proceeded with the downtown Medford market - set to open July17 - as a personal enterprise, much as she'd done in Cave Junction, ShadyCove, Bandon, Bend and Phoenix.

Board secretary Janet Bierbower said the Growers Market board didn'tapprove the switch. She said a large number of vendors did notwant to move.

Michael Warren, who resigned as board president the day after the planningcommission decision, said advocates of both the Medford Center and MainStreet markets claimed to have lists of supporters for their own position.

I never saw any lists with any names, he said.

Warren and others said the association's split related more to the hoursof operation. The growers of fresh produce were worried that their productswould suffer in the heat of Thursday afternoons. The downtown market isscheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. on a stretch of Main Street between Bartlettand Front streets.

I don't know if the board ever voted on staying or moving, butwe're obligated to honor the wishes of the members, Warren said.

He said he's been an advocate of a downtown site since an unsuccessfulbid four years ago.

This time as we got closer and closer the people who did not wantto go became more vocal, he said. At the final hour, it becameevident a lot of people didn't want to go downtown. The powers that be downtowngot wind of it and said they want a cohesive group. Debra got with themand reorganized.

Jerry Ehlers, president of the Heart of Medford Association, attendedall of the steering committee meetings. He said he knew some of the growersdidn't favor the move downtown.

It didn't seem like many - maybe 10 or 12, he said, sayingonly one person got vocal about it at a June 18 meeting.

It was just like some of our merchants who didn't like (the downtownmarket). We adjusted and flexed hours and the area to make as many peoplehappy as possible.

Georgia Anderson succeeds Warren as president of the 10-year-old association,which also conducts markets in Ashland on Tuesdays and Jacksonville on Saturdays.

The Growers and Crafters Market will continue to operate from 8:30 a.mto 1:30 p.m. on Thursdays at the Emporium parking lot at Medford Center.Some participants said they plan to offer their wares at both markets.

The Growers and Crafters Association board met for four hours on Saturdayto determine how to proceed. Bierbower said they need to deal with severalthousand dollars of debt and are proposing an audit.

Osborne said the cost of participating in her organization will be thesame as the cost to participate in the Growers Market. She has appointeda six-member advisory board of local vendors.

Don Burt, director of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, said he knewabout the switch from Osborne the day before the hearing, and she assuredhim most of the vendors would be involved in the downtown market.