The Rural Economy of New England: A Regional Study

By John Donald Black | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 24
Vegetable Farming

We now come to still another of those branches of the agriculture of New England which owes its continued existence to the large urban population in the region, and which in fact has been able to expand along some lines because of the growth of that population. For several reasons, however, the growth of vegetable farming in New England has not been proportional to the growth of cities. It is true that the consumption of vegetables, like that for fruit already noted, has expanded faster than that of food in general as our people have shifted more to lighter indoor occupations. But the increased processing of vegetables has enabled other areas having comparative advantage in their production -- Maryland for tomatoes, for example -- to sell canned or frozen substitutes for the local fresh or winterstored product. Canned green beans, peas, spinach, and beets may not be as appetizing as fresh ones; but they certainly make possible a better wintervegetable diet than the cabbage, squash, beets, turnips, and carrots formerly stored in family cellars. The recent developments in frozen-packed vegetables are contributing still further to the same end. New England can compete with other areas in the production of only a few vegetables for canning.

In the last few decades, the shift that has most affected vegetable-growing in New England is of course the year-round consumption of fresh vegetables produced farther south and in California. It might seem at first that the effect of this would only be to steal the market from the canneries. It has also cut in on consumption of fresh home-grown vegetables, because families do not eat so much of the fresh native crop if they have already been supplied for months with the same product from the outside; and to some extent because outside districts have been able to supply cheaper or better products even during the local season. Head lettuce is the clearest example of this latter.

It is obvious also that the southern and western vegetables have furnished

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