Spring is almost here! That means it’s time for the opening of the outdoor grower’s markets. We are grower's market junkies so this makes us so happy! Why you ask? Well here are 10 reasons why we love shopping at the growers markets and why you should too!
1. FRESHNESS - What could be better than getting fresh vegetables and fruits directly from the Farmers where they were picked within a day or so from when they get into your hands? . Plus, your produce lasts longer! When I buy lettuce at the grocery it only lasts a week or less before some of it starts getting that sliminess. Buy it at the Growers Market it lasts double that or even longer.
2. VARIETY - We have tried quite a few new vegetables because we saw them at the grower’s market. In fact we try to base our week’s dinner menu off of what we find at the market. Have you ever tried turnips?....Have you ever had mashed turnips? Well, they are divine mashed up just like mashed potatoes with butter, salt and a little cream. Not only have we tried turnips because of the market, we've had Jerusalem artichokes, green garlic, broccoli rabe, ramps, edible flowers and so many other fun things!
3. SUPPORT OUR LOCAL ECONOMY - When we buy at our local growers market that money is going directly into our community’s pocket. Over the years my family has come to know many of the farmers and vendors, and their dedication to provide our community with wonderful fresh food is amazing. They get up before the sun is up to set up their stands and to be ready to provide us with their bounty. Who deserves our support more? Big chain grocery stores or them?
4. OUR HEALTH - Since there is so little time between the farms to your table, your food is at its optimum nutrition. There is no shipping time thus there is no need for preservatives. Also, we know that our farmers use the least possible pesticides they can, so that our food is not covered in chemicals that we don’t want our family eating.
5. ONE STOP SHOPPING - The growers market isn’t only for fruits and vegetables, we can pick up meat, fish, cheeses, honey, jams & jellies, wine, finishing salts, fresh baked breads, pastries and cookies. And since we are always hungry from all the meal planning we can usually pick up breakfast or lunch to eat. From Thai food, to gyros, tamales, hand pies and so much more. The food is delicious and made to order often using ingredients straight from the market farmers. And if you want to pick up a gift for someone special there are a lot of handmade wares to choose from, beautiful pottery, delicate jewelry, hand carved wooden bowls, wooden toys, and more!
6. FLAVOR – If you’ve never had a strawberry directly from the grower, you are missing out. You know how you smell a strawberry and it has that sweet scent that smells like the strawberry shortcake dolls you had as a child and that just makes you want to eat the whole basket? That is exactly what they taste like when you get them at the growers market. Not like when you buy strawberries at the grocery store; tart and bland. Fruit doesn’t need sugar added to it; vegetables need less salt because their true flavors come through adding to the enjoyment of your meal.
7. COST – I’ve heard so many people say, “Shopping at the grower’s market is so expensive”. In my experience if you compare the prices of organic produce and sometimes even non-organic produce that you buy at the grocery store to what you buy at the grower’s market you come out about even or sometimes even less. I know that my lettuce mix that I buy at the grower’s market is a better price than if you buy it at the local grocery and, as I stated above, it lasts longer so you don’t have to dump ½ of it because you didn’t eat it in a week. That is saving you money!
8. RELATIONSHIPS - We have been taking Ilias to the Rogue Valley Grower's Market since he was born and he is now 11 years old and of course that means that Olivia (5) has been going since she was born. We have built friendships with many of the vendors and we especially look forward to seeing them at the beginning of the season, catching up on what they did with their off time. We cherish these relationships, especially the kiddos. Once January gets here they start talking about seeing Teri from Runnymede Farm, Kathy and Sloane from Pennington Farms, and Lori from Fry Family Farm, among others. Can you say that you know any of the farmer's that grow the produce sold at the your local grocery?
9. EDUCATION - Going to the Grower's Market is such a great learning experience for kids. They get to talk to the people that actually grow their food and that fascinates them. I often let them pick out fruit and vegetables that they can either munch on while we are there or something we can cook for a meal. They love it because it gives them ownership of what some of their diet consists of and they often try new things because of it. Rogue Valley Grower's Market also has special education for kids, on Saturday's. They have the kid Sprouts Club where they learn something new every Saturday and earn market coins to spend. During the season they also have special days for kid's to get educated through fun, hands-on activities!
10. FOOD - As I mentioned in "One Stop Shopping" there is so much wonderful food that you can buu to eat while you are there! Some of our favorites: Wasana's Thai Food - Get the Yum Nue, a beef salad that is so yummy. Spicy, tangy, and fresh! Sultan's Delight - Sam's gyro's are our kids favorite. I love the falafal plate with yummy chickpea salad. Last year the market also had Papusa's which were absolutely fantastic and the Hawaiian style snow cones from Mahalo Shaved Ice were phenomenal, I hope they come back. I can't wait to see what is there this year!
If these reasons don’t convince you then I don’t know what will. When the market opens they will have lots to choose from: salad mix, kales, chards, green onions, leeks, beets, parsley, potatoes, dry pinto and kidney beans, eggs, fresh flower bouquets and veggie starts that are frost hardy and ready to plant. Plus meats, cheeses, fresh breads, pastries and pies and so much more! Even if you just check it out for breakfast or lunch it’s a trip worth taking and you won't be disappointed.
The Rogue Valley Grower’s and Crafter’s Market will open Tuesday’s at the National Guard Armory in Ashland at 1420 E Main St 830am-130pm on March 8th and Thursday’s at the Hawthorne Park off of E.Jackson St in Medford on March 1st. The Grants Pass Growers Market is open on Saturday’s from 9am-1pm at the corner of 4th& F St in downtown Grants Pass starting Saturday, March 17th.
For a full list of grower’s markets throughout Southern Oregon with hours and maps, go here.