Abstract: Profiting from the American Garden: The Value of Nineteenth-Century Produce

Marina Moskowitz


In the provision of produce—fruit and vegetables purchased by the consumer in what nineteenth-century growers referred to as their "green" state—the geography of production and consumption took on special significance. In the purveying of produce, there was (and still is) strong impetus to provide both the most "fresh" food and the most readily available, even, or especially, when it would be "out of season" for a specific geographic market. For nineteenth-century growers, reading the market and understanding the geography of food provision—in both deciding what to grow and when, where, and how to sell—were critical to their success. As a very crude rule, growers at greater distances from specific markets found their advantage in seasonal timing, particularly in the ability to provide specific produce to a specific place earlier in the year than it could be grown there, while local growers had the advantage of freshness, where goods could travel, literally, from garden to market on the same day. Thus, the calculus of value behind the market generalizations were complex and revealed experimentation and innovation in the attempt to capitalize on the products of nature.