Local markets bolstered by USDA grant

After a decade of instability, the Ashland and Medford Grower's Markets have received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to find permanent homes.

Out of almost $900,000 distributed to various groups across the country to promote farmer's markets, The Rogue Initiative for a Vital Economy (THRIVE) of Ashland was awarded $26,500 for research and development of plans for a future location.

THRIVE will be working with Jody Waters, communications professor at Southern Oregon University, and one of her classes &

whose focus is the interplay between local and global markets &

to conduct surveys among the market's vendors and the general public. The surveys will be conducted through the spring of next year and will include questions designed to explore the community's opinions regarding various times and placements for the markets, such as how much support there would be for a Saturday Market as opposed to the current Tuesday and Thursday scheduling for the Ashland and Medford markets respectively.

So far, there are no strong feelings toward any property in particular for the Ashland market, THRIVE's Wendy Siporen said.

"We're open to everything," Siporen said. "There are a whole variety of places that are appropriate for a market from parking lots and streets to parks or other common areas."

Once a proper location has been identified, the remaining funds will be directed towards site design, for which a bid process has been set up to determine the designer.

What this grant will not cover is the actual development of amenities on the site which, as Siporen says, are relatively modest. A small storage facility for the market manager to house supplies tops the list but they also plan to provide restrooms and a seating area for customers and permanent water and electrical hook-ups for the vendors.

THRIVE has been working with Lithia Motors and the Commons Project to determine a location for the Medford Grower's Market.

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