A sure sign that spring is imminent, the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market opens today in Ashland.

A sure sign that spring is imminent, the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market opens today in Ashland.

"I'm so excited," Ashland Market Manager Mary Ellen De Luca said. "We have cheese, bread , cabbage, carrots, beets — all kinds of great veggies that have wintered over."

The market, now entering its 23rd season, will continue from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. every Tuesday at the Ashland Armory, 1420 E. Main St.

Other early season offerings often include kale, mustard greens, spinach, chard, leeks, onions, bedding plants and vegetable starts, eggs, meat, honey, jam, baked goods and local crafts.

The recent chill in the Rogue Valley may have taken a bite out of some of the offerings, but mild weather is expected this week.

"Some crops did freeze, so I have to check with some farmers to see what they will have," De Luca said last week. "Later in the season is when the produce really flourishes, but there will be a lot of plants now for people who want to grow their own garden. There will be lots of plants the farmers have to sell."

Patrons can also expect to find vendors selling salad mixes, cut flowers, tamales, hard cheese and starter plants for home gardeners in addition to vegetables that have made it through the winter, according to De Luca.

As the season progresses, special events are planned at the market, including Kids' Day on July 6, the annual Tomato Taste-Off in September and a pumpkin carving contest on Oct. 23. Additional activities are planned for Eat Local Week, which runs Sept. 12-20.

The market accepts Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) customers. Oregon Trail recipients will be able to use SNAP benefits to buy food, vegetable starts, herb plants and seeds that produce food.

The market started accepting Oregon Trail recipients two years ago, and the SNAP partnership is in addition to the continued participation in Senior and WIC Farm Direct Nutrition Program coupons, according to market officials.

Debit and credit cards are also accepted at the market.

Pets are not allowed at the market, a continuation of a policy started last year after vendors and patrons voiced concern about safety issues with dogs. Service dogs are still welcome at all three markets.

The Thursday market in Medford opens this week and hours are 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Medford Armory. On May 1, Ashland's Saturday market will begin, running from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lithia Way and First Street. For information, see the Web site rvgrowersmarket.com.

Reach reporter and editor Myles Murphy at 541-482-3456 ext. 222 or mmurphy@dailytidings.com.