Market Season is Back: Show Your Local Love at the Rogue Valley Farmers Markets This Spring
Gather your re-usable tote bags, dust off your sun hat, and strap a basket to your bike—the farmers markets are back in the Rogue Valley. Springtime means a chance to explore the incredible array of fresh produce, hand-made crafts, baked goods, cheeses, coffee, floral arrangements, and much more that the markets offer. With two markets in Ashland and Medford, and one in Grants Pass, there is ample opportunity to support our hard-working local community this season. Over 100 vendors make up the Rogue Valley Growers Market, and market days are Tuesday and Saturday in Ashland, Thursday and Saturday in Medford, and Saturday in Grants Pass. My first outings to the markets last week introduced me to passionate farmers, inspiring medicine makers, and ridiculously delicious food.
I went first to Ashland’s market, to talk to vendors and buy some farm fresh food. Ashland’s Tuesday market is at the National Guard Armory on East Main, and runs from 8 am to 1:30 pm every Tuesday, March until November. It’s a picturesque display of bountiful booths and roaming shoppers, with green hills rolling in the background. What’s offered at each market will rotate some with seasonal availability, but last week I was greeted by dazzling spring wild flowers, crisp salad greens, huge cabbages, savory smells, and sweet sights.
To satiate my lunchtime hunger, I grabbed a tamale from Katrina’s. I chose the chicken tamale, topped with fresh pico de gallo and sour cream, and paused from eating only to declare, “This is the best damn tamale I’ve ever had!” I tried bold and rich coffee from Griffin Creek Coffee Roasters, roasted here in Ashland on Tolman Creek Road. From Four & Twenty Blackbirds Bakery a vegan carob-hazelnut cookie, nettle tea from Nettle Man, Mediterranean Lavender goat cheese from Mama Terra Micro Creamery, and freshly baked rolls from Rise Up! Artisan Bread. I’m dubbing myself sample queen by the end of this market season.
Amidst sampling, I paused to chat with the farmers, crafters, and growers—all of whom were happy to share their knowledge. Suzanne Willow of Willow Witt ranch talked with me briefly about CSA (community supported agriculture) programs. Purchasing a CSA is essentially purchasing a share of the farm in order to support and sustain them throughout the growing season. In return, CSA owners receive a weekly delivery of food from the farm. Willow Witt offers a raw goat milk CSA, where the payment goes toward caring for the herd. And, my favorite perk, CSA members can visit the goats any time.
What is the best thing about CSAs, I asked. “They are re-recurring, you can plan on it each week,” Suzanne said. And, more importantly, “It’s an opportunity to try something new each week…you get the whole range.” So while keeping farms afloat and getting deliciously fresh foods delivered to you each week, you might just be stretched to experiment with (and learn how to pronounce) vegetables like kohlrabi or celeriac.
Many of the same, and some new vendors, were present at the Thursday market in Medford—set up in Hawthorne Park from 8:30am to 1:00pm, March until November. The park last Thursday was a scene of spring fever– babies in strollers, dogs in sweaters, and baskets full of flowers. A big display of tinctures and other natural remedies caught my attention, and Linda Stevens of Bare Necessities took a minute to talk to me about their history. “We’ve been coming to the market for 38 years,” she told me, referring to her and her husband Ray Stevens. Both are certified herbalists who rely solely on business from the farmers markets to continue growing and making their medicine.
Coquette Bakery and Pennington Farms both had difficult to resist pastries and sweets on display—chocolate croissants, Chile Relleno turnovers, and fig jam to name a few. Knitted shawls, ceramic cookware, and glass jewelry were some of the crafted goods, and authentic Thai cuisine from Wasanas Thai Food cart was a popular attraction. Another incredibly authentic vendor at the market, James and Molly Brody of Mill Creek Nest Eggs, brought photos of their chickens along with their eggs. The Brodys are a perfect example of the magic of the markets—one of few places where the work, and not just the product of what we eat and use, is on display. What better place to connect with the food and people feeding the Rogue Valley?
In Grants Pass, on 4th and F Street, the growers market is every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm, March until November. It’s a market with over 120 vendors and a long-standing tradition of being the “oldest and largest outdoor farmers’ market in Southern Oregon” (according to the Grants Pass growers market website). Market locations alternate between Cave Junction (103 S. Kerby Ave.) and Selma (18255 Redwood Hwy.), on Fridays, 4 pm to 7 pm, July until September. Rogue River’s market is on Sunday, 9 am-1 pm at 110 Pine Street, May until October. The Jacksonville farmers market, on the corner of 5th and C Street, is on Sunday 10 am to 2 pm beginning in June. Talent’s artisan and growers market is open every Friday evening, 5:30 pm to dusk throughout the summer, on the corner of Main St. and John St. Also, the Saturday markets in Ashland and Medford will start in May, and run through October.