CAROLINA ALUMNI REVIEW 55
Hatch was in charge of continuing and
renovating Jefferson’s last living legacy. In
his most recent book, A Rich Spot of Earth:
Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden at
Monticello, he wrote: “The Monticello veg-
etable garden is a living expression of the
genius of Thomas Jefferson and one of the
greatest success stories of his life.”
As with Jefferson, Hatch found Mon-
ticello the perfect grounds to marry all of
his interests. Besides his books, the aspiring
teacher created and led education programs
about the gardens.
Now, most of the crops are not harvested but rather go to seed and are sold at
the estate to grow in visitors’ own gardens.
And visitors who want a taste of Jefferson’s
farm can dip inside an estate restaurant that
cooks some of the vegetables.
Jefferson, Hatch said, “set a remarkable
foundation for the farm-to-table movement
today.” Still, there’s much he doesn’t know
about the man.
“The more you know, the more ques-
tions and mysteries arise. Jefferson’s ideas
and plans evolved dramatically over his
lifetime, the records are riddled with vacant
notations, and Jefferson is the most ambig-
uous of American historical figures: His
vision often did not live up to the reality.”
Tillers of the soil and sowers of the seed,
whatever the scale, know well what Hatch
means when he calls gardening “an unre-
lenting gamble.” No wonder its appeal to
the daredevil Jefferson.
Last fall, Hatch told a lecture audience
at the N.C. Botanical Garden that Jefferson,
for all his concerns about the wider world,
spent his whole life concerned about this
patch of ground at Monticello.
When he was 66, Jefferson wrote, “Tho
an old man I am but a young gardener.”
Retired from Monticello since 2012
after 35 years in the garden, Hatch plans to
return to the poetry he put down years ago.
It seems he is a young poet, too.
— Emily Palmer ’ 14
hend. He nurtured 330 varieties of 99 species of vegetables and 170 varieties of fruits
— peas were perhaps his favorite, at 24
different varieties; he competed with neighbors to see who could produce the first of
the season. He documented the harvesting
of lettuce in every month of the year; he
sowed a thimbleful of lettuce every Monday
morning from January to September.
When in Washington, he actively supported its farmers market, sharing seeds
he collected from ambassadors from other
When he sent Lewis and Clark to
explore the West in 1803, a significant part
of their mission was to bring back new
plants. He obtained seeds from all over
the world, and he shared them generously.
Hatch calls the garden an “Ellis Island” of
plants from all corners.
(Of course, we do not expect that Jefferson hauled the stones and handled the plow
himself — that certainly was the province
Much of what Jefferson believed, and
enjoyed, about food is what “foodies”
preach today. His documentation of the
smallest details of what he did in the garden,
the routines he repeated weekly, seasonally
and annually — religiously — constitute
an enormous contribution to the history of
food in this country. And guests at his table
could count on exotic treats raised with
Hatch, as well, faced no small task.
After years of archaeological research,
he and his crew began the long process of
restoring the original garden with Jefferson’s heirloom vegetables.
“I often found solace in Jefferson’s own
mantras about gardening,” Hatch said. Some
of them involved failure, with which Jefferson was no stranger. “The failure of one
thing is repaired by the success of another,”
“Few gardeners failed as often as
Thomas Jefferson, or, at least, wrote about it
as often as he did,” Hatch said, adding that
Jefferson understood “the humbling nature
of working with the land.”
He brought “revolution” to his garden,
Hatch said, combatting scalding Virginian
summers by assembling a collection of veg-
etables that could take advantage of intense
sunlight — colorful swaths of sweet pota-
toes and lima beans, eggplants and tomatoes,
okra and peppers. Hatch spent 35 years restoring Jefferson’s garden, and he’s written four books about it.
Jefferson ‘set a remarkable
foundation for the farm-to-table
Peter Hatch ’ 71