Not even the threat of rain kept shoppers from the Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market on Saturday.
And soon, rain will not be a problem for customers or vendors. The market will move indoors to Phoenix Charter School, 3131 Diamond Lake Blvd., to stay open year-round.
The summer market, now in its 20th season, will remain at its outdoor location, 2082 Diamond Lake Blvd., until Oct. 19. The market will move indoors Oct. 26 and stay there through the first weekend in April, only breaking on Dec. 28 and Jan. 4 for the holidays, said Heather Barklow, president of the Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market.
“It was the next logical step for the progression of growth,” Barklow said. “It’s not only the demand from the customers, but also the vendors. It was a matter of growth and needs.”
Market regulars were thrilled with the news Saturday.
“I was dreading not going year-round because I didn’t know what we would do,” Wesley Murphy, 22, of Winston said.
Murphy and his family shop at the market every Saturday. He said he buys all of his produce there. “It’s healthy, organic and non-GMO. That’s important,” he said.
Another market regular, Kelly Moore of Roseburg, brings her three, young grandchildren to the market every week, she said.
“The kids love coming here. They get an allowance and come and spend it every week,” she said.
Moore primarily buys produce, such as sweet lettuce and strawberries for the kids.
“We want to support locals as much as possible,” she said. “I think it’s awesome the market is switching to year-round. It’s really nice.”
The winter market will be smaller, with an average of 35 vendors compared to the outdoor market’s 50 to 60 vendors. Some artisans will be on a waiting list or on a rotation schedule, Barklow said.
Barklow said the market decided to team up with Phoenix Charter School because it’s been a steady vendor, and the market board members wanted to support the school’s community outreach.
The school will have food concessions and cooking demonstrations at the market. Students will take turns selling items to raise money, she said.
The Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market will join the Lookingglass Market as the only two in the county to stay open year-round.
There are about a dozen farmers’ markets in Douglas County. The Markets of Umpqua oversees five, which are run by NeighborWorks Umpqua through a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The five are the Umpqua Valley, Canyonville, Lookingglass, Old Town and Sutherlin farmers markets.
Barklow said the Roseburg market hasn’t had problems competing with others. The options allow people to sell at and attend more markets. Many of the vendors at the Umpqua Valley Farmers’ Market also sell at other county markets. “It’s an all ships rise with the tide outlook,” Barklow said.
Donna Knoefler, 60, of Roseburg, who has Donna’s Pies and Donna’s Garden at the market, said she also sells at the Lookingglass Market and is thinking of joining its winter season. She also sells at the Sutherlin Farmers’ Market. “I’m trying to diversify myself,” she said.
Big Lick Farms, a popular produce booth at the Roseburg market, plans on participating in the winter season. “It’s a great marketing opportunity,” farm owner Suzie Porter said.
Porter said business has been good. She usually has 50 to 100 people visit her booth in the first couple of hours of business.
On average about 800 to 1,200 people visit the summer market each week, though numbers tend to drop with gloomy weather. It has had more than 2,000 people on busy days, Barklow said.
About 70 percent of the market’s business is in food and plants and 30 percent crafts, she said.
One craft vendor, Maryjean Anderson of Canyonville, said she has had success selling handmade soaps. “I’m killing it here. I have a regular clientele,” she said.
Anderson used to manage the Canyonville Farmers’ Market and realized then that she couldn’t find a soap vendor. “I did some research and gave it a try. It’s been neat,” she said.
Now, it’s become her main hobby, and she said she wants to extend it to the holidays at the winter market.
Barklow said many vendors, like Anderson, are excited to sell year-round.
“The importance (of farmers’ markets) is supporting your local community and economy and knowing where your food is coming from,” Barklow said. “It’s neighborly and community outreach. It’s something people have grown accustomed to.”
Next Saturday will be Customer Appreciation Day, which falls on the first Saturday of each month. There will be live music and free raffles, she said.
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and firstname.lastname@example.org.