Florence’s City Center Farmers Market at 200 Sanborn St. is alive and well, open from 4 -7 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
I have been blessed throughout my life to enjoy the fruits of both country and city lives, and today many farmers have enjoyed and learned the need of both. It appears that the dream of just about every city dweller is to someday have a farm in the country and supply produce back to the city folks. Through the years I have found a few differences between country and city-based farms. I have always thought of the country-farm as a means of survival — to feed local families, and the city farm as providing luxury to city folks. However, today the role of the different farms has drastically changed because people are moving and changing, and most farms depend on both the country and city markets to stay in business.
First, on an early spring country-based farm, the selection of crops is usually a little limited. We usually grow the necessities on a country-based farm like plain white Irish potatoes, green cabbage, collards, mustard, and turnips. On a city-based farm, I have seen an endless variety of spring vegetables. For instance, Irish potatoes come in all shapes, types, and colors including banana (Russian Banana), round, and oblong shapes; red, pink, gold, yellow, orange and purple skins; red, pink, gold, yellow, orange, blue, purple, and white flesh.
Next, cabbage can be found in all shapes, types and colors including round, oval, flat, open, lettucy, and pointed heads; red, white, green, blue, and purple colors; smooth, savoy, semi-savoy, Napa, and Michilli types. If you get my drift, we could go on forever with “Next” and never get to “Finally” because there are thousands of colors, shapes, and varieties.
People wonder why I have given up trying to remember all the varieties. However, these are a few of my favorites: red, purple, and white carrots; orange, green, and purple cauliflower; endives and escarole; radicchio; arugula; orange, golden, white, and candy-striped beets; pac choi; broccoli raab; kohlrabi; and hundreds of different types and colors of lettuce. You may find many of these at your local seed/hardware store, but if not, you can order from catalogs, but you will pay a price.
Next, many country-based farms depend on rainfall, planting in wetter areas, or maybe a sprinkler to water, and crops are spread over a large area. However, on city-based farms, trickle irrigation is the rule. With trickle you don’t wet the leaves of the crop; therefore, you don’t encourage disease, you can water anytime day or night, and you put exactly the amount of water the plant’s need. Also, you can add fertilizer through the irrigation water, called fertigation. This allows the farmers to give the perfect environment for plant growth, crop yield, and use a very limited space.
Finally, the country-based farm is using less inputs including seed, irrigation and fertilizer costs and relying more on nature and the soil. The city-based farm has more inputs, but intensively produces more on a smaller plot of land.
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