April 22, 2009
As we celebrate Earth Day today, we would just like to take a second to recognize George Washington as America’s First Environmentalist. Unlike another famous Founding Father who wrote a lot about his gardening practices (we’re looking at you, TJ), Washington’s contributions to farming are often overlooked because he was too busy leading an army and then a country to really write extensive tomes on them. But, we will have you know that:
- Washington was the first American composter. Who knew, right?! His “repository for dung” was the first of its kind in America.
- The Obamas could certainly learn a lot about gardening from a visit to Mount Vernon (hint, hint). The Washingtons had a pleasure garden, kitchen garden, orchard, plant nursery, and even an experimental garden where exotic plants and seeds were tested to see if they would survive the Virginia climate.
- Washington introduced the concept of crop rotation to American farmers. After watching tobacco ravage the soil of Virginia plantations, Washington employed many land conservation measures, such as switching his main crops to corn and wheat, planting green cover crops in the winter, and using organic fertilizers.
- And as a random fact, Washington introduced the mule to America. Just some cocktail party triva for you as a special treat.
Image by L. Toshio Kishiyama
Category: George Washington in Popular Culture, Research/Lectures