“Thomas Jefferson, the Agricultural Scientist,” an Editorial From the April 1944 issue of The Southern Planter
Congress recently passed a joint resolution creating the National Agricultural Bicentenary Committee to develop leadership in honoring Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to agriculture. Fitting ceremonies, celebrations and educational programs will be held throughout America this year to focus attention on Jefferson’s views on farming. As long as free men cherish their liberty and make a living on the land, the life of the “Sage of Monticello” will be their guiding star.
Jefferson, more than any man of his day, visualized the possibilities of applying science to agriculture. He saw the need of soil conservation and practiced contour plowing on his own farm in Albemarle County, Virginia. He used gypsum legumes and manure to build up his soil, and wrote of their virtues. His efforts to improve the breeding of livestock and develop better types of crops pioneered this phase of scientific agriculture upon which modern herds and varieties are built. He appreciated the need of labor-saving machinery on the farm, and invented a moldboard, mathematically designed to turn the soil with the least possible resistance.
He was the first to recognize agriculture as a learned profession and to crusade for educational and cultural opportunities for rural people. It was Jefferson who developed the concept of our agricultural colleges. He warned that as farmers became efficient producers, fewer would be required to feed and clothe the Nation and the surplus population would enter the trades and professions, build our cities and reduce agriculture’s sphere of influence in the national economy. He believed in an “equilibrium of agriculture, manufacture and commerce.”