Jefferson traveled the world to collect seeds and grow more than 300 types of vegetables. On top of that, he maintained more than 170 varieties of fruit trees in his 1,000-foot Revolutionary Garden.
“He gardened with enslaved people, his neighbors and his friends abroad,” said Staci Catron, director of the Atlanta History Center’s Cherokee Garden Library in Buckhead.
The library is hosting a lecture Sept. 13 by horticulturalist Peter Hatch, author of “A Rich Spot of Earth,” the first book to capture Jefferson’s role as an expert farmer or as Hatch said, “a seed-y missionary.”
“This is a real early example of a forefather being a gardener himself,” Catron said.
Hatch retired earlier this year as the director of gardens and grounds at Monticello in Charlottesville, Va. Since 1977, Hatch was responsible for the interpretation, conservation and maintenance of Jefferson’s 2,400-acre Monticello landscape.
Catron said Hatch was nicknamed “Jefferson’s gardener” because he devoted 34 years to the revelation of Jefferson’s “passion for plants.”
“He’s a real dig-in-the-dirt-rough guy,” Catron said. “He has been entrenched there [in Monticello] for over four decades.”
Jefferson’s garden was like the “Ellis Island for plants,” Catron said. “It was a testing ground to see what would work here and what wouldn’t.”
Catron said Jefferson’s garden reflected “his whole philosophy of being a Republic and agrarian society and that we should be able to support ourselves.”
“We know that one of his favorite veggies to grow was peas,” she said. “He actually had a contest to see who could harvest the first English pea.”
Hatch will focus on Jefferson’s history as a gardener but Catron said the lecture ties in well to society’s modern farm-to-table movement, too.
Randy Jones, chair of the library’s public relations committee, said Jefferson was “practically the father of the farm-to-table movement.”
Aside from gardening, Hatch studied Jefferson’s books and letters throughout his time at Monticello to fully grasp his thought process. "A Rich Spot of Earth" has been nominated for a Pulizer Prize, Jones said.
Hatch is also an advisor for First Lady Michelle Obama’s White House kitchen garden that has a section honoring Jefferson.
Following the lecture and a book signing, guests will have a taste of Monticello, literally.
“We’re working with one specific local farmer in South Fulton [County],” Catron said. “He is actually growing the food for the caterer and it is all organic and the seeds are actually from Jefferson’s site.”
Farm Manager R.J. Kessler is harvesting the produce at Planted Rock Farm and Avalon catering, an Atlanta-based company specializing in organic cuisine, will cook the vegetables at the reception, which also will include wines from Charlottesville.
The event is co-chaired by Raymond McIntyre, and Kathy and Richard Lee. Additionally, Catron said Whole Foods is donating extra organic produce and any leftover food will be donated to Clyde’s Kitchen at Crossroads Community Ministries in downtown Atlanta.
If you go
o What: Lecture by Peter J. Hatch, author of "A Rich Spot of Earth."
o When: Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.
o Where: McElreath Hall, Atlanta History Center, 130 W. Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead
o Tickets: $25
o Information: www.AtlantaHistoryCenter.com/CherokeeGardenLibrary