Monday, September 19, 2011

Heritage Harvest Festival

Last Saturday, the family and I attended the 5th Annual Heritage Harvest Festival at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Image courtesy of the Heritage Harvest Festival. Jefferson's Monticello is on the top left of the image, and his terraced vegetable garden and orchard is located along the right side of the image.
Jefferson was a pioneer of and ultimate advocate for sustainable agriculture, and this made Monticello the perfect location for this great event. In short, the festival included everything from seed sales and heirloom tomato and watermelon tastings to hands-on workshops, presentations, and tours of Jefferson's amazing home, garden, and orchard. I highly recommend this event for anybody interested in all aspects of agriculture and simpler ways of living.

I could write pages and pages about the importance of everything presented at the event, but I figure most people who read this blog likely agree that a handful of seeds, the sweat of your brow, and dirt on your hands can lead to some pretty amazing things. Instead, here is a photo-journey of Thomas Jefferson's garden.

Southwest view of Jefferson's expansive vegetable garden. He located it on a south slope to maximize the sunlight, growing seasons, and air movement down the slope.
Peach and other fruit trees in Jefferson's orchard (center of image). Corn is visible in the left foreground, blooming rosemary on the right, and I'm not sure what's blooming in the center.
A staggered row of sea kale.
A lush bed of sweet potatoes.
Tree onions, also called top-set or walking onions, are very hardy perennial and multiplying top-setting onions. This means that they form new onion bulblets where most onions form flowers. They don't produce very large bulbs, but they are fun to grow and nearly impossible to kill. If you've never tried growing onions, start with these to boost your confidence.
Two rows of onions in between peppers and squash.
French artichokes and a nifty wooden plant label.  Each row of veggies, herbs, and flowers was clearly identified by these labels, which made it much easier to identify specific varieties of plants.
I had never seen sesame before, other than on my bagels, but Jefferson's garden was loaded with it.  Each one of these pods is filled with sesame seeds. I broke open one of the drier, yellow pods with my fingers and seeds spilled onto the ground. I can't think of any other museum or heritage site where you can touch AND break part of the display or exhibit without being arrested!
This West Indian Gherkin (cucumis anguria) caught my eye. This beast doesn't look safe or edible...probably why it remained untouched.
Faded sign on a weathered fence that surrounds Jefferson's old nursery. 
Mulched pathway that cuts through the nursery. In the background you can see the edge of the vineyard.
In the orchard. Jefferson loved peaches and fought the noble fight that we still know today as "growing peaches organically". He had about as much success as we do today... 
Aerial view of Monticello not taken by me. I don't have a helicopter or a proper photo credit.
If you are interested in specific information about Jefferson's agricultural successes and failures at Monticello, you should read Thomas Jefferson's Garden Book. It's a compilation of his horticultural diaries, letters, and sketches. Probably more info than you ever wanted to know about the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States. For example, you'll read in his own words about his love of sweat peas, his favorite veggie. Random, but true.

Did anybody else attend the Heritage Harvest Festival this past weekend? Have you ever been to Monticello? I look forward to hearing from you.


Brandie said...

The yellow flowers you couldn't identify are Jerusalem Artichokes. We enjoyed the festival too. Like you, I couldn't resist picking at the sesame, and a few seeds fell in my hand, which I put in my pocket :)

.09 Acres said...

Brandie, glad you were able to attend the festival. Thanks for identifying the Jerusalem Artichoke blossoms. I've eaten the root/rhizome/tuber before, and it was quite tasty, but i had not seen the whole plant. Aside from "acquiring" a few sesame seeds, did you purchase anything else for planting?

Brandie said...

Yes, actually I bought some fish pepper seeds (a variegated cayenne) and a hardy trifolate orange tree from the Jefferson gift shop.