Media Contact: Amy Atticks, 434-984-7529

Charlottesville, Virginia (MONTICELLO) --Monticello welcomes  Aaron Keefer, Culinary Gardener from The French Laundry as its keynote speaker for the 8th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival, September 12-13, 2014.  The Festival celebrates Thomas Jefferson’s legacy as a revolutionary gardener and is presented by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello in partnership with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Thomas Jefferson, often called America’s “founding foodie,” championed vegetable cuisine, plant experimentation and sustainable agriculture.  In many ways, Jefferson was also the “architect of American life,” encouraging the growth and appreciation of the arts in America. Each year the Heritage Harvest Festival honors Jefferson’s legacy with a bounty of heirloom fruits and vegetables, and lessons on organic gardening and seed-saving during a fun, affordable, family-friendly celebration held on the breathtaking West Lawn of Monticello.

Jefferson brought both substance and style to the new nation, fostering a distinctly American sensibility. Visitors today can explore the diversity of the decorative and useful items Jefferson used, from his Chinese gong to silver tumblers made to his own design.  Inspired by Jefferson’s taste, his appreciation for the arts, and his renowned hospitality, this year Monticello is launching a new set of Festival programs on the Art of Living. Highlights include a panel discussion on wine, entertaining, and design moderated by designer and Monticello trustee, Charlotte Moss; and individual programs on architecture, fine cuisine, and flowers.

On Friday evening, the Festival features a keynote lecture by Aaron Keefer, the Culinary Gardener of The French Laundry, and a Chefs’ Harvest Dinner on Montalto, Jefferson’s high mountain overlooking Monticello. Since 2011, Keefer has overseen Chef Thomas Keller’s three- acre garden across the street from The French Laundry in Yountville, CA.  He collaborates on a daily basis with each of Chef Keller’s culinary teams across the country to ensure that they receive only the very best produce possible from the garden.  Today the garden includes a chicken coop, four beehives, escargot farm, hoop house, seed room and a ferment room.

“Chef Keller started our garden as an educational opportunity for the kitchen staff because he believes that everyone needs to gain an understanding and respect for where food comes from,” said Keefer.  “Every night the chefs gather at the end of service to plan the next day’s menu and they are inspired by the produce we make available to them.  In turn, I am inspired by their use of such humble ingredients to create something memorable and magical for our guests.”

This year, visitors can choose from more than 100 programs and workshops, visit with 90 vendors and exhibitors, interact with live animals, and sample food from local farms and restaurants. Tickets are available at along with a full list of festival offerings, including workshops by world-renowned speakers like Anne Raver, Rosalind Creasy, and Robert Llewellyn. General admission tickets are $10 in advance for adults and $8 for children 5-11 (children under 5 are free). Tickets purchased at the gate will be $15 for adults and $8 for children (children under 5 will be admitted free). Premium workshops start at $10 and will be held Friday, September 12, at the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center and Monticello gardens, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Friday premium workshops do not require a general admission ticket; however, attendance to Saturday premium workshops will require purchase of a general admission ticket.  This year an additional pre-Festival program on Edible Landscaping will be held on Montalto on Thursday, September 11.

The Heritage Harvest Festival is made possible thanks to the support of generous sponsors including Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mother Earth News, Mother Earth Living, Grit, A Pimento, Skyline Tent Company, Optima Health, Dalgliesh Gilpin Paxton Architects, Farm Foundation, 107.1 WINA, 106.1 The Corner, Lite Rock Z 95.1, WNRN, Brown Edwards & Company, MARS, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Holiday Inn at Monticello, Countryside Organics, Ivy Publications, Piedmont Environmental Council, and the Virginia Association of Biological Farming.

About Monticello

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation was incorporated in 1923 to preserve Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Virginia. Today the Foundation seeks to engage a global audience in a dialogue with Jefferson’s ideas. Monticello is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark and a United Nations World Heritage Site. As a private, nonprofit organization, the Foundation’s regular operating budget does not receive ongoing government support to fund its twofold mission of preservation and education. About 450,000 people visit Monticello each year.

About Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE) located in Central Virginia, started in 1982 in a small family garden and a kitchen co-opted for seed processing. The kitchen garden has since expanded to numerous growing areas supplemented by a nationwide seed grower network. Now the seed company has its own office, germination testing facility, and environmentally controlled seed storage areas. SESE emphasizes seed varieties adapted to the Mid-Atlantic region, it serves gardeners throughout the United States and Canada.