A Founding Father of the field-to-fork food movement, Thomas Jefferson often entertained the reverie of life as a market gardener with, “…such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another.” Within the thousand-foot-long confines of his Monticello garden he planted more than 330 varieties of 99 species of vegetables and herbs and 170 varieties of fruit, a virtual melting pot of plants. Although his marketplace never quite escalated beyond the family dining table, Jefferson remains a kind of horticultural figurehead to this day. Yes, he might have been a more pioneering risk-taker (and meticulous note taker) than most of us in the garden, but Thomas Jefferson was inflicted with same agriculture bug that lures all of us into our own plots of soil each Spring — anticipation.
No publication has so thoroughly deconstructed the layers of Jefferson’s unique vegetable garden as the pioneering new book by Monticello’s Director of Gardens and Grounds, Peter Hatch, “A Rich Spot of Earth”: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello." In it, Hatch reveals Jefferson’s lasting influence on American culinary and garden history. Hatch also recounts the inspiring recitation of the Monticello gardens back to their original framework. The book’s forward is by chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame — often referred to as a “revolutionary” herself for her devotion to sustainable agriculture and local food. “A Rich Spot of Earth”: Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at Monticello debuts April 23 on the West Lawn of Monticello during the National Book Launch: An Evening with Peter Hatch.
Preceding Peter Hatch’s April 23rd book launch, Alice Waters joins us at Monticello to celebrate Jefferson’s farming legacies from the 19th – 20th. On Thursday April 19th, Waters will host a public book signing to autograph copies of her recent works at the Monticello Museum Shop. Water’s recent books 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering, In the Green Kitchen, The Art of Simple Food and Edible Schoolyard will be available for purchase.
In conjunction with “A Rich Spot of Earth” and the much-anticipated start of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week (April 21 – 28, 2012) Saturday, April 21st marks the beginning of our NEW, two-hour, hands-on tour Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden Tour at Monticello. Tour-goers will plant, harvest, and sample spring crops ranging from asparagus to baby root vegetables, and an in-depth guided walk will be followed by a Meet the Gardener segment with Monticello’s professional staff. At the conclusion of Saturday’s program, author Peter Hatch will be available at the Visitor Center Museum Shop for a special preview signing of “A Rich Spot of Earth.”
While combing through the vast gardens during Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden Tour at Monticello, visitors will also see some of the same plantings Peter Hatch recently took to this Spring’s re-planting of the White House Kitchen Garden with First Lady Michelle Obama. In fact, two beds there pay homage to Jefferson’s gardens with Brown Dutch and Tennis-ball lettuce, Brussels sprouts, Sea Kale, Globe artichokes, tree onions, kale, Choux de Milan cabbage, Caracalla bean, and spinach. Seeds of summer crops like Fish Pepper, Purple Calabash and Costoluto Genovese tomato, and Red Calico lima beans were planted in Washington, as well.
Brown Dutch Lettuce, Tennis Ball Lettuce, Globe Artichoke, Curled Siberian Kale, Prickly Seeded Spinach, Fish Pepper, Purple Calabash, Costoluto Genovese are all available as seeds in the Monticello Museum Shop and online. Globe Artichoke, Tree Onions, Caracalla Bean, Sea Kale and all tomatoes will be available in the Monticello Museum Shop and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants Open House in April.
There is no finer time to visit Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden than in the midst of Historic Garden Week under Virginia's canopy of Spring color. Jefferson's gardening legacy is so contagious in fact, we think you'll find yourself approaching your own plot as the man himself did: As a foundation for learning, a little friendly competition, and a connection to the cycle of life in general.