"A Rich Spot of Earth": Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello

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Overview

Were Thomas Jefferson to walk the grounds of Monticello today, he would no doubt feel fully at home in the 1,000-foot terraced vegetable garden where the very vegetables and herbs he favored are thriving. Extensively and painstakingly restored under Peter J. Hatch's brilliant direction, Jefferson's unique vegetable garden now boasts the same medley of plants he enthusiastically cultivated in the early nineteenth century. The garden is a living expression of Jefferson's genius and his distinctly American attitudes. Its impact on the culinary, garden, and landscape history of the United States continues to the present day.

Graced with more than 200 full-color illustrations, "A Rich Spot of Earth" is the first book devoted to all aspects of the Monticello vegetable garden. Hatch guides us from the asparagus and artichokes first planted in 1770 through the horticultural experiments of Jefferson's retirement years (1809–1826). The author explores topics ranging from labor in the garden, garden pests of the time, and seed saving practices to contemporary African American gardens. He also discusses Jefferson's favorite vegetables and the hundreds of varieties he grew, the half-Virginian half-French cuisine he developed, and the gardening traditions he adapted from many other countries.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
Elegantly produced and artfully augmented by stunning, evocative photographs of the estate and the bounty it produces, Hatch's homage establishes Jefferson as the clear forefather of modern organic and sustainable garden movements.—Carol Haggas, Booklist, Starred Review

— Carol Haggas

Gardens Illustrated
...there is much interesting archive material, and pleasing vegetable still-lifes composed with the care of a Dutch master.—Ambra Edwards, Gardens Illustrated

— Ambra Edwards

Washington Times
Beautifully illustrated, authoritative. . . . It is wonderful to find out that the man who contributed so much to the republic in which we live also set his contemporaries—and posterity—such a salutary example in other ways as well.—Martin Rubin, Washington Times

— Martin Rubin

Richmond Times-Dispatch
A Rich Spot of Earth: Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello presents a rarely seen side of the man. Here is Jefferson with mud-splattered boots laying out garden beds and carefully setting seeds with dirty hands: a Founding Father not on a lofty pedestal, but joyfully competing with neighbors in an annual contest to see who could bring the first spring peas to table.—David Maurer, Richmond Times-Dispatch

— David Maurer

Andrea Wulf
“In this fascinating book, Peter Hatch wonderfully weaves together his deep understanding of Monticello’s soil with his scholarly knowledge of Jefferson’s legacy as a gardener.”—Andrea Wulf, author of Founding Gardeners
Amy P. Goldman
“Peter Hatch is the ultimate authority on America’s ultimate vegetable garden.  Learn all about the genius of the place.  Hatch’s fascinating account will enrich your garden and your life.”—Amy P. Goldman, Chair of the Board, Seed Savers Exchange
P. Allen Smith
"Peter Hatch brings the horticultural legacy of Thomas Jefferson to life.  A Rich Spot of Earth affords us a clear and compelling view into the revolutionary thinking of Jefferson, illuminating for the reader his approach to food, diversity, democracy, and freedom – making the genius of Jefferson, perhaps, as relevant today as at any other time in American history."—P. Allen Smith, author of The Garden Home Series
Lawyers, Guns, and Money Blog - Erik Loomis
"The book is absolutely beautiful and tells a fascinating story. It provides pure pleasure for those interested in tasty food lavishly presented. And it opens up a new and interesting way of thinking about Jefferson, the Founding Father who remains most relevant and malleable for Americans."—Erik Loomis, Lawyers, Guns, and Money Blog
New York Times Book Review
Digging deep into our long, illustrious tradition of presidential dirt. . . .A Rich Spot of Earth lovingly describes the 1000-foot terraced vegetable garden that was restored to its 1812 appearance under the author's able direction.—Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review

— Dominique Browning

Archives of Natural History - Simon Thode
“[T]he images make the book thoroughly enjoyable, and, through their sheer number and quality, provide us with an insight into the sublime character, and material ordering, of natural productions so important to historical actors of this period.”—Simon Thode, Archives of Natural History
Library Journal
Hatch (director, gardens & grounds, Monticello) offers a close look at all aspects of Thomas Jefferson's terraced vegetable garden at Monticello, both past and present. He divides the book into two parts. The first richly describes the garden's history in the context of Jefferson's worldview. To Jefferson, a garden had the potential to transform society. Monticello and Jefferson come alive as Hatch describes how Jefferson designed and managed the garden in which he cultivated over 330 varieties, including new plants like okra, sea kale, eggplants, and olive trees. Readers learn, for example, that Jefferson was successful at growing hops for brewing ale but continually failed at growing grapes for wine. Hatch also devotes a chapter to his own efforts to restore the garden. The second part of the book describes the origins and uses of Monticello vegetables, listed by common name, each with its own little narrative. Well documented and researched, the work also includes hundreds of color photographs and historical images. There is also an appendix listing sources for purchasing heirloom vegetables. VERDICT Foodies, garden geeks, and history enthusiasts will enjoy this well-written and visually appealing book.—Lisa A. Ennis, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham Lib.
Heirloom Adventures Blog

"Breathtaking. The photos are beautiful, the research is impeccable, and the story is captivating. From a historian's perspective, Hatch provides a new depth to the understanding of Jefferson's character. From a gardener's perspective, the book serves as an inspiration to grow and treasure heirlooms."—Heirloom Adventures Blog

New York Times Book Review - Dominique Browning

"Digging deep into our long, illustrious tradition of presidential dirt. . . .'A Rich Spot of Earth' lovingly describes the 1,000-foot terraced vegetable garden that was restored to its 1812 appearance under the author's able direction."—Dominique Browning, New York Times Book Review
American Horticultural Society - American Horticultural Society Book Award

Winner of a 2013 American Horticultural Society Book Award.
Garden Writers Association - Silver Award of Achievement

Winner, Silver Award of Achievement from the 2013 Garden Writers Association Media Awards Program.
The Colonial Dames of America - Annual Book Award

Winner, 2013 Annual Book Award, The Colonial Dames of America
Booklist - Carol Haggas

"Elegantly produced and artfully augmented by stunning, evocative photographs of the estate and the bounty it produces, Hatch's homage establishes Jefferson as the clear forefather of modern organic and sustainable garden movements."—Carol Haggas, Booklist, Starred Review
Gardens Illustrated - Ambra Edwards

"...there is much interesting archive material, and pleasing vegetable still-lifes composed with the care of a Dutch master."—Ambra Edwards, Gardens Illustrated
Washington Times - Martin Rubin

 "Beautifully illustrated, authoritative. . . . It is wonderful to find out that the man who contributed so much to the republic in which we live also set his contemporaries—and posterity—such a salutary example in other ways as well."—Martin Rubin, Washington Times
Richmond Times-Dispatch - David Maurer

"'A Rich Spot of Earth': Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden at Monticello presents a rarely seen side of the man. Here is Jefferson with mud-splattered boots laying out garden beds and carefully setting seeds with dirty hands: a Founding Father not on a lofty pedestal, but joyfully competing with neighbors in an annual contest to see who could bring the first spring peas to table."—David Maurer, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Alice Waters

"Peter Hatch's vibrant and enthusiastic passion for preserving Thomas Jefferson's farming legacy at Monticello reminds us all of the time-tested continuity and historical root of this kind of agriculture."—Alice Waters
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300171143
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 157,732
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 10.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

As Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello since 1977, Peter J. Hatch has been responsible for the maintenance, interpretation, and restoration of its 2,400-acre landscape. He has written several previous books on Jefferson's gardens and is an advisor for First Lady Michelle Obama's White House kitchen garden. He lives in Charlottesville, VA.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2012

    Excellent book, indeed! Anyone interested in Jefferson, Montice

    Excellent book, indeed! Anyone interested in Jefferson, Monticello or landscape gardening should give this book a go.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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