An agreement with the Ashland School District has moved the Bellview Grange one step closer to hosting a Saturday farmers market in Ashland.

Pending legal review, the school district has agreed to purchase a 7,400-square-foot portion of grange land for $120,000 and allow the grange use of the Bellview Elementary parking lot on Saturdays for the next 30 years.

Originally, the school district had hoped to have a "perpetual easement" to expand parking and traffic access through the grange property. The district deeded the land in question to the grange back in the 1930s and has used the property as a school exit since that time, said Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

The grange asked for what it called a more equitable solution, which, in addition to the sale of property, will allow the grange to build a demonstration garden on the north edge of the school's property and a children's garden that can be used by both groups once the new school is completed.

Because the construction bond measure did not include purchasing property, half of the money will come from the district's contingency fund and the balance from the 2008-09 general budget, Di Chiro said.

"In some ways it would have been simpler for us to get the easement," she said. "In the long run this is going to serve the district well because we don't have to worry about the future use of it."

During construction of Bellview Elementary next year, the grange will be able to use Lincoln Elementary, provided it pays all costs associated with use, including utility and custodial fees. The district agreed to pay for the conditional use permit application fee.

A second Saturday market

The Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters market is also working to add a Saturday market in Ashland, said Wendy Siporen, director of THRIVE, an alliance of local food producers. Although the grange had discussed possibilities of a Saturday event with the growers market, the two groups are now working independently, Siporen said. However, she doesn't believe two Saturday markets could survive in Ashland.

"We just don't have enough farmers," she said.

Most farmers in the Rogue Valley currently attend a Saturday market in Grants Pass, and only recently has the demand and the number of farmers grown to support a Saturday market in Ashland. In a recent survey conducted by the growers market, 58 percent of customers said they would attend both a Tuesday and Saturday market, and 51 percent of vendors supported the idea, with an additional 16 percent undecided.

Grange members did not return phone calls for comment.

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