Farmer’s Market Magic

    With lots of kids and little time, I often do my shopping in whatever grocery store is close and fast. I think this is a good idea until I get to the produce section and find the cilantro is old and wilted, the strawberries are rotten, and they are out of broccoli (this was me last week). I try to pick through to find what I can to make a *hopefully* nutritious meal for my family, then head to the store’s bakery. Only to find a similar situation with the baked goods. It is in this moment that I mentally kick myself and ask, “WHY am I not shopping at the local farmer’s market?!”
    In this fast-paced, technological world we live in, visiting a farmer’s market can be a huge breath of fresh air. Almost as soon as you arrive, the atmosphere forces you to slow down, look up, breathe deeply and smile. It’s this warm sense of calm that draws you in and gives you an immediate sense of belonging. Similar to that magical feeling you experience at Disneyland, these markets have their own sense of magic. It’s the kind of magic that makes your heart rate slow, your cell phone stop buzzing, your children behave and your shoulders relax. This environment doesn’t happen by chance—it is the result of dedicated and intentional vendors that make our markets what they are today.
    The vendors are all local growers, artisans and craftsmen/craftswomen. They are there because they have a passion to bring their items directly to the consumer, a passion to connect with the community, and a passion to give back. Many of the farmers contribute to the Small Farms programs, personally donate goods, and advocate for local non-profits. They believe in the importance of community and the relationship.
    My kids and I just recently made our first trip of the spring to the farmer’s market. Our favorite local market (and the one closest to us) is the Rogue Valley Grower’s Market at Hawthorne Park in Medford. I tasked my 12 year old, Sammy (currently homeschooling), with a project while we were there. He was to observe the various booths, take lots of pictures for a power point, and purchase a few items to cook something at home. I was pleasantly surprised with how much he enjoyed this! Normally, taking a 12- year-old boy to the market is akin to Chinese water torture (though I’m not quite sure what that is, it definitely sounds awful). He really enjoyed getting to take pictures and was very engaging with many of the vendors—something I think they both enjoyed!
    We weaved our way through the market, pushing my little two in the double stroller—stopping every fifty feet or so to buy an organic juice popsicle; fresh, hot tamale; huge, chewy cookie; soft cupcake; and homemade strawberry lemonade. Sammy decided to purchase local sourdough bread and cheese to make grilled cheese sandwiches. After noticing that we have a serious carb overload problem—a common thread in our home—I thought we’d better pick up something green, so Sammy purchased a beautiful bag of salad greens. We got there mid-morning to shop and then spent an hour or so at the fantastic new playground/sand area just put in last year where the kids played and we ate most of our goodies…yum! The weather was perfect and I was reminded how great it is to get the kids (and myself) out of the house and into the sun and fresh air for a few hours!
    As we were leaving, I noticed the traffic in the market had really increased and many popular vendors had decent lines, which was great, especially for a Thursday! But, with that in mind, if you can go early—definitely do so. Sammy made us fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and my little ones took extra-long naps…WIN WIN.
    A common misconception is that farmers markets are only for vegan moms who make their own soaps and bring at least two small children, preferably in front carriers. But this isn’t true…there is something for everyone (but those moms rock, for the record)! In addition to our purchases, other local favorites include fresh goat cheese, homemade salsas, Korean tacos, made-to-order wood fired pizza, fresh donuts, and fresh tortillas. My friend, Amanda, is firstly, a lover of all things farmers market, as well as an active participant in the markets. She articulated her feelings about it so well, I just had to quote her:
    “Where else can you know the name of the person who churns your peanut butter, harvests your lavender, hand carves your spoons, makes your jams, presses your juice, makes your lunch, assembles your furniture and garden crates, bakes your dog treats, hand roasts your coffee, harvests your honey, kneads your breads, bakes your desserts, hand milks the cows for your cheeses, sharpens your knives, makes your pasta, crochets your gloves, sews your kitchen towels, forages for your mushrooms, formulates your soaps, picks your flowers, blends your smoothies, and tends to your starters and vegetables?”
    The largest market in Southern Oregon is the Rogue Valley Growers Market. They can be found in Ashland on Tuesdays at the National Guard Armory and on Saturday in downtown (Oak St). Medford days are Thursday and Saturdays both at Hawthorne Park. RVGM weekday markets run March-November and Saturday markets run May-October. Additional markets include Jacksonville Market (Sundays, May-Oct) on the lawn of the historic courthouse, Talent Artisans & Growers (Friday evenings May-Sept) across from City Hall, and the Grants Pass Growers Market (Saturdays, year-round) in downtown Grants Pass.
    Bringing small town culture to the middle of busy cities, farmer’s markets are a valuable addition to any community. I encourage you to make visiting and shopping our farmer’s markets part of your weekly routine!
    *Thank you to Amanda of Thursday Market Mom Gift Crates for her contribution!
    Sammy and I recommend and purchased from:
    Pennington Farms (cookies)
    Sweet Stuff (cupcakes and sweet breads)
    Tamales Rosa Maria (tamales)
    Barking Moon Farm (salad blend)
    Rise UP! Artisan Bread (sourdough)
    Dutchman’s Peak (cheese)
    View the RVGM complete list of vendors!

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