Cover image for Of cabbages and Kings County : agriculture and the formation of modern Brooklyn
Of cabbages and Kings County : agriculture and the formation of modern Brooklyn
Linder, Marc.
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Publication Information:
Iowa City, Iowa : University of Iowa Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 478 pages : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
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Call Number
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F129.B7 L6 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In Of Cabbages and Kings County, Marc Linder and Lawrence Zacharias reconstruct the history of a lost agricultural community. Their study focuses on rural Kings County, the site of Brooklyn's tremendous expansion during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In particular, they question whether sprawl was a necessary condition of American industrialization: could the agricultural base that preceded and surrounded the city have survived the onrush of residential real estate speculation with a bit of foresight and public policies that the politically outnumbered farmers could not have secured on their own?

The first part of the book reviews the county's Dutch American agricultural tradition, in particular its conversion after 1840 from extensive farming (e.g., wheat, potato) to intensive farming of market garden crops. The authors examine the growing competition between local farmers and their southern counterparts for a share of the huge New York City market, comparing farming conditions and factors such as labor and transportation.

In the second part of the book, the authors turn their attention to the forces that eventually destroyed Kings County's farming -- ranging from the political and ideological pressures to modernize the city's rural surroundings to unplanned, market-driven attempts to facilitate transportation for more affluent city dwellers to recreational outlets on Coney Island and, once transportation was at hand, to replace farms with residential housing for the city's congested population.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Linder and Zacharias's study provides a valuable and unusual view of urban history by unraveling the agricultural transformation of Brooklyn, New York, the nation's third largest city in 1860. Despite Brooklyn's size, the rest of Kings County produced the nation's second largest vegetable crop in 1879. Using horse manure from New York City streets as fertilizer, Kings County farms supplied both cities with vegetables. Old Dutch farm families made the transition from extensive agriculture (grains and livestock) in 1850 to intensive market gardening by 1870; increasingly, immigrant tenants farmed the area before speculative land development and suburbanization forced farmers out during the 1890s. Annexation of the county followed, first to Brooklyn (1896), then New York (1898). The authors demonstrate how the unrestrained free market destroyed an important urban asset, making both cities' residents dependent on more expensive and less fresh agricultural goods from California. In contrast, European cities protected their market gardens through city or cooperative land ownership. Occasionally densely argued and overly detailed with nearly 100 pages of long endnotes, the study has profound implications for today's urban sprawl debate. Highly recommended for urban history and urban studies collections. Upper-division undergraduates and above. J. Borchert; Cleveland State University