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Living up to its name

Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli

The valley growers market expands this weekend into downtown Medford

Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market enters an expansion phase this weekend when its vendors set up shop near Central Avenue, between Ninth and 10th streets, in Medford.

"The time is right because the organization is strong enough to establish another market," says Growers Market manager Janet Bierbower. "We expect it to become the biggest in Southern Oregon and the state of Jefferson."

The Saturday market will run 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through October, with special events planned for July, September and October.

"A farmer's market fits in well with downtowns," says Eric Iversen, senior planner for the Medford Urban Renewal Association.

"It's a very good use on Saturdays and it's good for getting people and bodies downtown. The more people you get there, the more people will be shopping at neighboring stores."

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday with a grand opening slated for May 11 that will include the Old Time Fiddlers and a demonstration by Bella Union chef Tom Bates.

There are three other weekly markets in Jackson County and one in Grants Pass. The longest-running market is held Thursdays east of the old Emporium at Medford Center, attracting an estimated 2,000 to 3,200 visitors weekly.

"Late in the summer, I wouldn't be surprised if there were 4,000 to 5,000 people," says Medford Center general manager Paul Farmer.

Bierbower anticipates 50 to 60 vendors, who pay $25 annual dues and $12 set-up fees, this week and more in the future.

"A lot of our vendors have jobs during the week or go to other markets," she says. "I'm sure the people that go to Grants Pass will figure a way to split (operations) and do both."

Although the market blots out some of the area's parking, Iversen says reduced use by Rogue Community College and employers on Saturdays open up plenty of space.

Ashland's market, at Oak and Hersey streets, continues on Tuesday. Jacksonville's market on C Street is aimed at tourist trade and remains on Saturday. Early-season membership is 125 and Bierbower anticipates surpassing 200 members at the height of the season.

The Medford Market began in 1987, Ashland began in 1990 and Jacksonville started seven years ago.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com

Larry Carpenter (aka Chiliman), right, says he sells 25 to 30 varieties of pepper plants at the weekly growers market in Medford. Here, customer and former master gardener classmate Doug Bush talks about some of Chiliman's offerings.