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Fresh take: Graziella Bush

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Selling her produce at the Columbus City Farmers Market under her own name, Graziella Bush is one of the old guard of Columbus farmers markets. She began by selling in the original market, which was in front of the Columbus Post Office. Now she sells at the Columbus City Farmers Market, conducted every summer Saturday at FairOaks Mall.

Growing her exotic produce from eight small plots at the Columbus Community Gardens near the airport, Bush began growing to combat homesickness for her home country, Italy. Now the unusual veggies she sells to customers bear roots all around the world, from French haricot verts to the shiro plums she plucks from her own backyard, attracting buyers with their own international roots.

“Why,” she asks, “grow regular cabbage when you can grow savoy cabbage?”

City of residence: Columbus

When and how did you decide to start cultivating produce?

I retired. I was director of the Visitors Center. With my husband’s health, I couldn’t hold a full-time job. I decided to join the city gardens. I started with one piece of land. I made a very cute little Italian garden with gravel pathways and intricate designs. I decided OK, enough of this fooling around. Here in Columbus you didn’t have access to unusual or fancy vegetables, so I told my mother to send me some seeds of this and this and this and that. I grew them and sold the produce down at the market. I realized the market had become more cosmopolitan.

My purpose was not only to provide myself with vegetables but also to educate the people here. Here in Columbus we are kind of insular — all we knew were green beans, potatoes, corn and meat. I don’t want to offend anybody, but there is a lot more out there.

What do you sell?

Boutique-style produce and veggies. I also have tons of bouquets.

How long have you been gardening?

Since I was a kid. I started gardening here because I felt very isolated. When I came here, the North Christian Church was still under construction, and we were surrounded by soybeans and corn. The only thing that comforted me was in those days is you could walk in the Irwin Gardens every day. To me, it was just like being in Italy.

How do you decide what to grow?

The flowers I grow have a lot of sentimental value. Phlox reminds me of going on vacation in the mountains. I grow a lot of oleander here; they were all along the seaside when I went vacationing to the beach.

What do you like about being a part of the market?

Visiting with people. I knew a lot of people when I was working at the Visitors Center. They come to visit me at the market every week.

What’s been one of your most memorable experiences participating in the market?

I like to meet new people. The people from Germany come in and pick up zucchini. Chinese people come and get the long beans. And I have some people that love to buy my collard greens. There is a faction of the population here that comes from the South, and they love collard greens. The fun part is when people ask me “How do you cook it?”

Do you think people are becoming more interested in locally produced items? If so, why?

Because they are fresh. For instance, people come to me because they know I just picked them the day before. Farmers markers are a fad at the moment, but the markets cover a multitude of needs.

Do you sell at other locations? Where?

I sell occasionally to Tre Bicchieri and occasionally to Bistro 310.

Is this a hobby or more for you?

It’s a hobby, really. It keeps me busy; it keeps me in shape. It keeps my mind agile. I just love visiting with people and making new friends.

What are your plans when the market ends?

I just catch my breath. There is a lot of work to be done in the sense of cleaning up the garden. The farmers market ends at the end of September, but that doesn’t mean that the garden quits.

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