Stories

Southern Oregon Makers: Mary Ellen DeLuca

Meeting Mary Ellen DeLuca is like tasting the first real strawberries of the season – a delightful mixture of bright sunshine, intense flavor and authentic, organic realness.

By Eddie Wallace

The effusive Market Operations Manager for the Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market (RVGCM) originally hails from Boston (and has the accent to prove it) but has lived on a five-acre farm in Talent with her husband and five children since 1995.

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You would expect to find the freshest, most delicious selection of fruits and vegetables the Rogue Valley has to offer at these markets, and you will, but that's just the beginning. RVGCM vendors sell organic meats, fresh pastas, flowers, baked goods (including donuts!), worms and worm juice for composting, handmade soaps, pottery, wood-working, and a selection of food trucks and stands serving up delicious meals.

"We have some the best quality produce in the nation here in the Rogue Valley," enthuses Mary Ellen. "I've traveled to farmers markets across the country, and what we have here is as good as anything I've tasted elsewhere."

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Farmers, crafters and artisan food producers fill up to 80 stall spaces with their diverse offerings. You will find master gardeners, master preservers, & non-profit booths for education; buskers for entertainment; and complimentary seating areas set up by market management for comfort.

Mary Ellen moved from Boston to the Rogue Valley with her family in 1995 and a dream came true when they settled on their Talent farm, where raising children and milk goats became their new way of life. Mary Ellen’s first experience with RVGCM came as a vendor selling excess produce and figs that came from trees the DeLuca family brought with them all the way from Boston.

It was a circuitous journey for those fig trees, as Mary Ellen explains it. “When we first got them delivered in Boston, the packaging said ‘from Grants Pass, Oregon.’ We didn’t know anything about Grants Pass, but around the same time, my husband Joe, who was a mailman, had a chance conversation with someone on his route who said southern Oregon was the best-kept secret in the whole country.”

With that, the seeds of curiosity were planted. It took a few years to make the idea of a cross-country move into a reality, but once they got to southern Oregon, they knew they were home. The youngest of Joe and Mary Ellen's five children is now at Phoenix High School, and two others still live on the family farm in Talent.

Looking ahead, RVGCM leadership is always looking for ways to improve its offerings and generate excitement in the community. Possibilities include a winter market at Bellview Grange in Ashland this coming November - February, as well as monthly health presentations from Providence Medical Group. Onsite chef demonstrations are under consideration as well.

Every Tuesday from 8:30 AM - 1:30 PM from March through November you will find Mary Ellen overseeing the Ashland location of RVGCM at the National Guard Armory on East Main Street in Ashland. An additional Ashland market day is offered on Saturdays from May to October on Oak Street in downtown Ashland, between Main Street and Lithia Way.

Mary Ellen's colleague Stacy Van Voorhees runs the Medford location of RVGCM on Thursdays in Hawthorne Park at Hawthorne and East Jackson Streets.

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