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Growers and Crafters Market searching for new homes

Organizers of the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market say they're searching for new and hopefully permanent locations for their weekly events in Medford and Ashland after scheduling and housing conflicts have strained their ability to serve customers and vendors.

The markets, which General Manager Marcella Bell says draw the participation of 142 local businesses, are held Tuesdays in Ashland at the Ashland Armory and Saturdays on Oak Street. In Medford, the markets are held Thursdays at the National Guard Armory and Saturdays in the Commons, off North Bartlett Street near the Lithia Motors building.

But Bell says those locations are all facing different challenges that make it costly for the markets to keep operating.

The Tuesday market in Ashland was forced out of the armory earlier this year as a result of higher-than-acceptable lead levels generated by its now-closed indoor shooting range. The market has since returned to the armory after temporarily relocating to the ScienceWorks property off East Main Street, but organizers say they're having to rent temporary restrooms for customers because the armory's bathrooms have yet to be deemed safe.

Bell says the Ashland Saturday market faces issues after vendors who say they've been excluded by the city's regulations started demanding market organizers find a new location. "We're actually not allowed to have all of our vendors there," Bell says, explaining the regulations are intended to protect brick-and-mortar businesses downtown.

Now, the Tuesday market in Medford may be at risk, after organizers learned of plans for a possible remodel of the National Guard Armory.

Bell says organizers aren't dead set on either indoor or outdoor venues as a replacement. She says the weekend markets have traditionally been outdoor events. "(But) indoor locations open up the possibility of long-term markets," she says. 

Ideally, the markets' new homes would be near major thoroughfares. Bell says organizers had considered relocating the Thursday market in Medford to the Commons, which currently hosts the Saturday market. But she says experience has shown that it's not an ideal location.  

"Because it's not a residential area, there aren't many people downtown in Medford on Saturdays," she says. Compounding the issue, Bell says, is the lack of nearby parking to support a large customer base.

The space considerations for the markets require room for up to 100 10-by-30-foot booths and space for 15-foot walkways. Bell says the markets would be fully insured for liability purposes regardless of whether the host is a public or private agency and would operate as seasonal events regulated by the county.

Bell is asking any interested parties or those with leads on possible locations to contact her via email at marcella@rvgrowersmarket.com or by phone at 971-678-8626.