Jul 10

The Independent Gardener

Back to Our Roots

Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison were Founding Fathers and our first four presidents; what else did they have in common? They were land owners and farmers. Now Adams only worked 400 acres inQuincy, whereas the other three had a comma in their number, but he was a farmer none the less.

Today we refer to them as gentlemen farmers because they held a second job addressing a minor problem. You might rememberWashingtonwas assigned to a subcommittee managing a war; but even then, much of his correspondence toMount Vernonwas about the farm and his gardens.

We cannot underestimate the influence of agriculture on how our constitution and government was shaped. More than half of the 55 attendees to the 1787 Continental Convention inPhiladelphiawere gardeners. These people spent a sweltering summer behind closed doors and windows, crafting the document that still governs us today.

Washingtonchaired the convention andMadisonwas the un-official recording secretary. Absent, but in constant communication via sail-mail were Adams and Jefferson. They were inEnglandtrying to rekindle a relationship with our former and only trading partner.

Something that we can relate to today is that the attendees quickly agreed the Articles of the Confederation, the document that held us together during the Revolutionary War, wasn’t working; but they could agree on how the new government should be organized. The difference between then and now however is that with compromises offered on all sides they made it happen; in just four months.

These people developed life long friendships several years earlier while serving in the Continental Congress during the war; their common bond was gardening. When the war ended they shared letters, seeds and plants across all of the states; andEurope.

Jefferson, who was stationed inParisat the time, traded throughoutEurope, requesting seed boxes from the states and sending back anything that had potential to sustain the population. One of the most successful was rice, still grown along thePalmettoCoastinSouth Carolina.

So, during the Convention, arguments were heated but not personal. The location for cooler heads to prevail and discuss compromises was at William Bartram’s garden, 100 acres of plants along the SchuylkillRiver. This place could have been the blueprint for our Arnold Arboretum; it hosted plants from the thirteen states, all thriving in one location. (

Ironically, at the same time, Adams and Jefferson were frustrated with the trade negotiations. (Englandbelieved we were not going to survive as a nation and would soon be offering an apology along with a request to return to colony status.) They decided to leaveLondonand tour the exotic gardens on the English estates; and what they soon learned was that the “Exotic” plants were native toAmerica.

That was a eureka moment; on both sides of the pond. The convention attendees recognized the land’s natural resource sustainment potential and the trade delegation realized we didn’t needEnglandin order to survive. Our strength, ability to sustain ourselves, and produce a trade item was agriculture.

It seems to me that a nice way to honor these people would be a home vegetable garden.

In honor of our founding fathers

When in the Course of a growing season it becomes necessary for gardeners to dissolve the marketing bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of their backyard entitle them; a decent respect to the opinions of neighbors requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to garden.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all gardeners are created equal, that they are endowed by their ancestors with certain unalienable rights that among these are knowledge, ability and the pursuit of the weed free garden. That to secure these rights the Agriculture industry, deriving their powers from our spending dollar, need to know; that whenever any grower introduces a new plant variety, it is the right of the gardener to just say No on the principle that the yard is only so big, and most likely to effect our Safety, Happiness, and probably Marriage.

Prudence, indeed, dictates that 10,000 years of plant cultivation should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience has shown that gardeners are more disposed to suffer when new plants, tools and products are introduced, pursuing invariably the same objective; to reduce our savings. It is our right; it is our duty, to tell the Marketer where to go, and to provide new guards for a healthy garden.

Such has been the patient sufferance of us gardeners; and such is now the necessity which constrains us to alter our former growing techniques. The history of the Agriculture Industry is one of repeated introductions, all having the objective the establishment of an absolute plant buying addiction.

To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world. They promote must own noisy strap on, sit on, ride on power tools to replace healthy quiet hand tools. They convince us that fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides eliminate the requirement to compost and keep the yard clean. They dictate style as having the newest plant varieties; heirlooms and previous introductions being so “Last Year.”

At every introduction and advertisement we have stated in humble terms that the yard is full and the bank account empty; but our responses have no impact. We want the industry to keep progressing. We have reminded them that we garden because we want to and like it. We have attempted to instill in them our wants and needs, but it has fallen on deaf ears. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation and hold them, as we hold our fellow gardener; competitor for first and largest tomato yet still friend and neighbor.

We, therefore, the Gardeners of the united States of America, blog assembled, appealing to the gardeners of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do solemnly publish and declare, that we are united, and of right ought to be free and independent, that we will keep our planting beds clean of debris, that we will cut our lawn to prevent annual summer weeds from going to seed, that we will deadhead and prune for the health of our perennials.

We are absolved from all allegiance to Madison Avenue; and that as free and independent gardeners, we have full power to just say No, and to do all other acts and things which Independent gardeners may of right do.

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of our fellow gardeners, we mutually pledge to each other our assistance, seeds, and produce.

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