In celebration of July Fourth, let us remember Thomas Jefferson–founding father and author of the Declaration of Independence. By writing such a highfalutin document, however, Jefferson nearly outdid himself and overshadowed his greatest accomplishment, achieving the distinction as Virginia’s worst farmer.
Among neighboring farmers, the joke was Jefferson couldn’t even grow oats and thus merely fed his horses philosophy. This explained his horses’ poor condition. Jefferson’s friend Margaret Bayard Smith wrote, “He is a great agriculturalist and horticulturalist in theory, but practically, I imagine, he knows little of any cultivation, but that of flowers, of which he is extremely fond.”
The Danger of Mimicking a Master
Locals pretty much say the same about me. One farmer even called me “a great agricultural ignoramus.” Like Jefferson, I’m generally not good at growing anything but flowers or plants that end with the suffix -weed. At growing those two things, I excel.
Over the years, I’ve thought about writing important stuff like Jefferson. In fact, in college I started writing a serious epic poem in iambic pentameter called “My Grandma’s Pond,” but gave up when I couldn’t think of a good rhyme for the line, “Into the wind, I cast my plastic worm.”
If I wrote something as earth-shattering as the Declaration of Independence, I’d run the danger of people forgetting my bumper pigweed crop of 2016. Truth be told, I’d be sad if local farmers didn’t slap me on the back and ask, “How’s your pigweed looking this year?”
When we bought the farmstead from my wife’s poppaw, I should have realized that Lowry was up to something. Right after we signed the closing documents, he leapt in the air and kicked his heels together. Little did I know at that point, Lowry had just offloaded his pigweed problem on me, his grandson-in-law. Pigweed had the farm besieged, and I soon found myself fighting an endless war to beat it back. In 2016, I grew such a great stand of pigweed you could barely spot a soybean. The feat won me the unofficial title as the county’s worst farmer.
Last year, however, I nearly goofed and grew a good crop of soybeans. If it wasn’t for a late summer drought, I would have had to scramble to keep my title as our county’s worst farmer. Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of competition from upstarts. One family rented a livestock trailer from the local farm supply. They forgot to secure the trailer’s door and let two cows roam a busy intersection.
Breakthroughs in Agricultural Theory
Since buying the farm, I have, like Jefferson, studied up on agricultural theory and devised some promising methods for combating pigweed. For conventional farmers who are okay using agricultural chemicals, I recommend getting your hands on a barrel napalm. Since I’m nearly certain pigweed seeds can’t survive temperatures over 1000°F, I believe firebombing a field would be an effective way to eradicate pigweed.
For organic farmers, options are more-limited, but I believe procuring a small nuclear device (plutonium being all-natural) would suffice. According to my calculations, a small nuclear blast would release enough radiation to eradicate pigweed for several square miles. However, this method also runs the risk of causing pigweed to mutate and morph into a super-villain. Such a development could make farming in the future more difficult, even for the best farmers.
Anyway, enough nonsense. Happy July Fourth!
(FWIW, the internet believes Thomas Jefferson was an INFJ. You can read more about the INFJ propensity for farming failures in my post Farming Personality Types.)
8 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson: Founding Father of Failed Farmers.”
I don’t grow pigweed. I can’t, because our fields of spotted knapweed wouldn’t give pigweed the time of day. And, being as I insist on organic, I operate a rose chafer feeding operation. If the damn things had any use at all, I could potentially operate at a profit. One way to dodge the “worst farmer” reputation, is to insist, from the outset, that you are not a farmer–just a gardener. That drops your “worst” performance into a lesser, under-the-radar category and relieves you of having to consider the nuclear option.
I’ve thought the same thing myself: If only I could figure out how to make money on pigweed, I’d be a millionaire by now.
Can cows eat pigweed? It also sounds like it would be tasty to pigs, right?
It has a big taproot, so I suspect pigs liked rooting around for the root, so I think that’s where it got it’s name. The joke with farmers here is when Jesus told the legion of devils to get out of the crazy man and go into the pigherd, the devils misheard and went into pigweed.
As for cows, they generally hate it. If I could teach mine to eat it though, I’d be on to something.
I don’t know, according to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden blog your pigweed is a highly regarded food in many other parts of the world. Maybe there’s a niche market just waiting for a local supplier such as yourself.
Maybe you’re on to something–maybe I could start selling pigweed seed to gardeners in Brooklyn.
You taught me something today! I had no idea that “highfalutin” was an actual, dictionary word. I would be forever frustrated if we tried to grow actual crops in our fields, because it would be too much to keep up with the weeds. A small garden is all we can handle.
I’ve always thought it was two words–high and falutin. But then I looked it up and it was just one word, which makes sense because I don’t think falutin is actually a word by itself. I’ve never heard it in a sentence without high preceding it.