This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The Gardeners' Chronicle, tells us that " the agricultural life of a French market gardener begins, one may fairly say, from babyhood. At eight or nine years of age his mental education - if, indeed, he has ever had any - is complete, his physical and professional one commences. His father, or his patron, assigns him a bed, or an out-of-the-way corner of the garden, which he may cultivate with just what he pleases, and appropriate the money proceeds of his crops to his own peculiar use and behoof. As he has been accustomed to hear economy vaunted and upheld, and to see it rigidly practiced, so he applies the lesson to himself. No bon-bons, galette (cake), or toys, come within the range of his juvenile necessities; he supersedes the dulce by the utile, and the few sous he makes from Radishes, Lettuces, Cabbages, or what not, he either puts into his money-box or spends upon actual wants. And thus it has come to pass that, as a class, the men we are dealing with are unquestionably the most hard-working, least frivolous, and most thrifty of all their countrymen.
" The very first care a French market gardener saddles himself with socially is about the very last an English one thinks of - a wife. To the latter individual she may be a luxury; to the former she is a positive sine qua non of a necessity to his prosperity, for while he tills and produces, so she gathers and sells. But the bachelors don't wander for wives beyond the spinster sisterhood of their own calling; they choose the daughters of one of their brother gardeners - very, very rarely indeed beyond them - for, say they, these damsels are to the manner born, of the earth, earthy, and must be so to stand the incessant fatigues of its culture. After marriage these young men and women give themselves up entirely to their occupation; their horizon does not extend beyond that of their gardens; farewell to the world outside of it.
" In the establishment of a French market gardener every one is up and about before daybreak. In summer the womenkind start at 2 o'clock, and in winter at 4 o'clock, to sell their vegetables at market. The sale is over by 7 or 8 o'clock, when they return home, and go straight into the garden to take their share of the daily routine of labor. This work, without being actually the severer kind, is nevertheless hard enough, compelling them to kneel down much, and necessitating exposure to wind and weather for hours and hours together. And while maman la jardiniere is so occupied, do not suppose that mam'selle, the daughter of the house, is idle. No; there is that young lady on her knees, too, helping materfamilias in her various tasks.
"So soon as the women have gone their ways to the Halles the men begin their toil. At 7 o'clock they eat a crust of bread with their loins girded, so to say; at 9 o'clock every one breakfasts; then, after a short rest in the middle of the day, they dine at 2 o'clock - all at the same table, master and mistress, men-servants and maid-servants, boys and girls, apprentices and laborers - there is no distinction; the meal is a general one, commune omnibus, after the fashion of the patriarchal ones of old. Dinner finished there is no lingering over dessert, work is resumed and continued without interruption until supper-time, which varies according to the season of the year. That refreshment closes the day, to be opened, passed, and terminated by a morrow in every respect precisely its counterpart. Truly one day telleth another:
"Each morning sees some task begun, Each evening sees it close; Something attempted, something done, Has earned a night's repose.
"The marriage of a relative, the funeral of a friend, and the fete of the gardeners' patron saint, are the only circumstances under which the men and women ever allow themselves a holiday.
" But, spite of a life so laborious, and which seems to leave time for neither relaxation of mind nor for rest of body, the. French maraicher works on to a very advanced age, and it is a fact that one never comes across an old man or woman of the class begging his or her bread. This state of things does not result because each and all have put aside something for a rainy day, or as a provision in the decline of life, but simply because they are so habituated to labor that they cannot, or believe that they cannot, live without it. Those seniles who have failed to save are housed among their children; those who have no families - and which, by the way, is a rare contingency of marriage amongst them - offer their services for a mere nominal wage to their better-to-do brethren, and these employers consider it a religious duty to shelter and to apply the decrepids in a manner suitable to the strength of their declining years".