I was in Washington D.C. recently and while there I had the privilege of visiting Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. It was very inspiring, if not educational. While there I learned something about George Washington that I did not hitherto know. Before becoming our country’s first president, George Washington was a farmer. If any of my history teachers ever taught me that little tidbit of information, I bear all the fault for not learning it.
On the Mount Vernon farm, there is a sign posted at the site where the actual farming took place. The words on the sign were very inspiring, and also wise, which comes as no surprise considering this is George Washington we’re talking about. This is what was posted on that sign regarding his vision as a farmer. The piece (below, in italics) is aptly titled “Visionary Farmer.”
“I hope someday or another, we shall become a store house and granary for the world.”
– George Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788
While the world remembers him as a great military and political leader, George Washington would have told you he was first and foremost a farmer.
By the mid-1760’s – more than a decade before the Revolutionary War – Washington had switched his main cash crop from tobacco to wheat. He knew that wheat did not deplete the soil as quickly as tobacco and had economic advantages as well. Because the British did not regulate the sale of wheat as closely as tobacco, he had more markets in which to sell his wheat for greater profit.
Washington used the most modern scientific farming methods at Mount Vernon. He introduced an innovative seven-year crop rotation plan and experimented with soil enhancers to increase the productivity of his fields. He acquired the most modern farm implements.
He divided his Mount Vernon estate into five farms. The Washingtons lived on the Mansion House farm, and the other four farms were for agricultural production. Each of the four outlying farms was home to between 40 and 80 slaves, who worked from sun-up to sun-down six days a week to implement Washington’s visionary ideas.
In 1771, Washington opened a merchant mill. He transported wheat and corn grown at his farms to the mill for grinding into flour and cornmeal. He sold these products as far away as Europe and the West Indies. In 1797, Washington further expanded and diversified his farming operations by constructing a distillery next to his mill.
Although Washington loved the life of a farmer, his motivation went far beyond personal satisfaction and profit. He believed that American economic success lay in the nation’s ability to produce agricultural products that could be sold around the world.
George Washington had the gift of crafting a vision in his mind and then making that vision a reality. In the arena of politics and also farming he had success because he was always trying to figure out the best methods to follow for the greatest outcome, so that the greatest good might be experienced, not simply in our nation, but throughout the world.
Please take a moment to think of all the important leaders in our country down through time. We owe them our respect and gratitude.
Blessings to you all!