A kind of artist

A summer day in the gardens at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia, June 2014

A summer day in the gardens at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia, June 2014

“We have neglected the truth that a good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.”Wendell Berry

History tells us much about the wide-ranging though conflicted brilliance of Thomas Jefferson.  Aside from his celebrated love of books, farming may have been his greatest passion. He and his trusted gardener Wormley Hughes left a legacy of agricultural artistry at Monticello that still can be seen and felt today.

The five thousand acres of Monticello were home to an entire community of free and enslaved workers, and his gardens were “a kind of laboratory where Jefferson experimented with 330 varieties of more than seventy species of vegetables from around the world.”  Jefferson’s analytical skills and compulsive record-keeping documented years of success, failure and persistence that yielded food for the tables at Monticello and inspiration for generations of family farms and gardens.

Perhaps the unusually long life span of Jefferson and many of his enslaved collaborators are a testament to the benefits of a locally grown plant-based diet.  Most of the individuals we think of as “founding fathers” were also farmers, and probably we have as much to learn from their agrarian achievements as we have from their political deeds.

Whether or not you have space for a home vegetable garden, I encourage you to learn more about locally grown food.  The widespread rediscovery of family farms and gardens may ameliorate much of the emotional, environmental and physical damage done by our over-processed, mass-produced food supply that has largely separated us from the contact with nature that is healing on many different levels .

I’ve seen (and tasted) the benefits of home gardening, and I’m convinced Berry is right about the importance of small local farms to the overall good of society.  Like so many other urban and suburban people who get their fruits and veggies from the supermarket, I have a long way to go in putting this philosophy into practice, but I hope you will join me in moving in that direction.  Maybe we can start by planning a visit to an orchard or garden where we can pick our own food and experience firsthand the connection between its source and our table.

Do you grow anything edible?  If so, do you agree that there are benefits that go beyond the superior taste of home-grown food?  Feel free to inspire us with your experiences and advice!

One year ago today:

Designed by nature

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Judy from Pennsylvania

    Day after day you provide such thought provoking and enjoyable entries for us here. It’s amazing how you come up with so many different topics and photos! Much appreciated!

    Our tomato plants are beginning to give us a few of the little cherry tomatoes. We have to pick them as soon as they turn light red or ‘the critters’ chew a big hole in them. We think that it’s the squirrels because of the chunks that are taken out. The kohlrabi and sugar peas are long gone already and were wonderful. Now we have big buckets of various kinds of lettuce growing on the patio where the rabbits can’t get at them. I pick the leaves in the morning and soak them in water with white vinegar to make sure there aren’t any bugs hiding in them (learned that from a friend who had a farm market).

    We just have a small garden that also gives us green beans and herbs. It makes us happy in some sort of natural, earthy way when we see the things growing and can bring them to the dinner table.

    As I write this, a horse and buggy are going by the front window near the place I’m sitting. I love living in an area where we’re surrounded by farmers and reminders of a simpler way of living.

    • Hi Judy! Yes, you are fortunate to live where you do. I’m so glad you are growing your own produce! This year I have a garden plot in our community garden that a neighbor tends for me, so I don’t have to do much to it, but I’ve been able to pick fresh lettuce and tomatoes (as well as bright red Zinnias for fun) and really enjoy eating the veggies within hours of picking. I didn’t even know squirrels would eat tomatoes until I moved to Virginia, and found that they prevented my ever getting even a single tomato off my lovely, flourishing vines. So I gave that endeavor up. But the community garden plots are well protected in a fenced, terraced area that gets all sun and no shade.

      Thank you so much for your kind words about the blog. When one is writing about reasons to be grateful, the ideas just come one on another and there are so many thought-provoking quotes out there! The blog served my original purpose of not allowing the sorrows to blind me to the many joys. If it helps anyone else, that’s like icing on the cake. 🙂 ❤

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