We all know Thomas Jefferson as one of the founding fathers of the United States of America and the third president of our country. Today, April 13th, marks his birthday. While Jefferson was a very influential in writing the Declaration of Independence and made many great contributions to our country, he is often overlooked for his influence on farming and his love of food.
As a farmer, Jefferson was obsessed with new crops, soil conditions, scientific agricultural techniques, and garden designs. His main cash crop was tobacco, although it was rarely profitable. Jefferson tried to achieve self-sufficiency with many vegetables, wheat, corn, hogs, and cattle to supply his family, slaves, and employees. Unfortunately, he was always in debt due to his other interests. Among other interests, Jefferson was an inventor. He is credited with making the moldboard plow. This plow allowed farmers to turn the top soil on their fields and greatly reduce the time needed to prepare a field. This in turn allowed farmers to work a larger area of land.
Thomas Jefferson was also interested in wine and considered a gourmet of his time. As president, Jefferson, is remember for his elaborate entertaining. Meals often consisted of wild fowl including pheasants, partridges, and wild pigeons. Even when he wasn’t entertaining President Jefferson often began his day with Squab baked in a flaky crust or beef tongue. He loved exotic fruits like pineapple and always had a supply of fresh-baked bread. Jefferson continue to enjoy these foods beyond the end of his term.
As you can see Thomas Jefferson wasn’t only important in the founding of our country but was also a key player in adjusting the social norms around growing and eating food! I can relate to his love of dining and entertaining. I also see that he set the precedent that our nation’s leaders should be a renaissance man with many different passions.
Happy Birthday President Jefferson!