Farm Fresh: The Farming Founding Fathers

Did you know that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe were all farmers? It’s thanks in large part to these men that our country has not only survived but thrived in its almost 250-year existence. Applying many of the same common-sense principles it takes to do well on the farm has helped grow and sustain the United States since 1776.

George Washington turned down the chance to be king and went back to the farm after serving two terms as president.  He experimented with crop rotation and many novel farming practices.

Thomas Jefferson invented the moldboard plow and a machine to make pasta.

Ben Franklin once said, “There seem to be but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbors. This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the hand of God in his favor, as a reward for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.”

Our Founding Fathers didn’t just have respect for farmers; they knew that agriculture was the backbone of our economy and crucial to the success of our nation.

I recently took a trip to Philadelphia and toured Independence Hall. When you’re in the room where liberty was declared, where George Washington sat during the Continental Congress, it makes you think about how fortunate we were to have such great leaders. One of the many things I thought about during that trip was what our forefathers would say about agriculture in
the U.S. today.

I think they would be exceptionally proud. Our food supply today is the safest, healthiest, and most abundant we’ve ever had.  Compared to other countries, we also have the least expensive food supply based on the percentage of our income we spend on food, despite the recent
inflationary pressures.

Farmers are the original innovators, and I think many of the great American farmers from 250 years ago would be happy to see how the farmers of today are able to manage their land foot by foot across the field with such speed and accuracy, changing the rates of seed and fertilizer in a prescription fashion in order to maximize productivity in the best soils while conserving resources in other areas.

Farmers have also now reversed the centuries-long depletion of soil organic matter that dates back to when Washington and Jefferson were farming.  Thanks to crop protection products, drain tile, GPS, and amazing equipment, farmers are now able to no-till or strip-till in order to rebuild soils, sequester carbon, and improve food quality.

And this is only the beginning of modern agriculture’s potential.

This is a great time to be an American, and we have many Founding Farmers to thank. Their experiences, their commitment to agriculture, and the foundations of liberty and prosperity they laid will allow us to cultivate an even greater nation for generations to come.




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