If you walk into Ventimiglia’s covered market through the main entrance, the first stalls you see are stocked with the year round selection of produce supplied by wholesalers across Europe. Bananas and mangos sit side by side with strawberries and apples in a display of unseasonal plenty. Take a turning into the side aisle of the market and it’s clear this is spring in Liguria. Low tables are heaped with smallholders’ produce; slim stalks of asparagus, young heads of globe artichokes, new courgettes with the blossom still fresh, alongside baskets of eggs, tubs of olives and jars of pickled peppers. No strawberries here; they’re not ripe yet.
You don’t have to walk far out of town to see where some of this produce is grown. Centuries old, stone-walled terraces step up the hillsides in all directions and although some terraces are now rough grass or ornamental garden, many are still under intensive cultivation. Intensive farming is often used to refer to large scale, mechanized agriculture with high inputs of fossil fuel. Here the intensive inputs are manual labour and traditional know-how. This ancient, farmed landscape has a sustainable future.
That’s not to say that smallholding here is stuck in the middle ages. Some terraces above the town are covered with efficient modern glasshouses but they’re not so photogenic!
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