Many U.S. presidents were also farmers

By Brandie Piper

We know a lot about past United States presidents, but did you know many of them had roots in agriculture? From George Washington to Jimmy Carter, tobacco to peanuts, here are some facts about some of our farming presidents.

George Washington

In the second half of the 1700s, Washington cultivated more than 3,000 acres at Mount Vernon, the plantation he owned in Virginia. He first grew tobacco as his cash crop but changed to wheat in 1766 after realizing tobacco was not economically worthwhile. George Washington’s Mount Vernon says he used crop rotation and multiple methods of fertilization.

John Adams

Adams grew up on his family’s farm in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts. The Adams family grew corn, rye, wheat, oats, and barley, and kept livestock. It was a lifestyle he enjoyed, but his father made him receive a formal education, where he learned basic skills like reading and writing. He continued his education at a college prep school, started college at Harvard at the age of 15, and eventually became a lawyer. He later said he would have preferred being a farmer. The property remained in the family until 1940 when it was turned over to the city of Quincy. Nearly 40 years later the property was designated part of the National Park Service.

Thomas Jefferson

At the age of 26 Jefferson started building what would become Monticello, a residence in Albemarle County, Virginia. In 1770 he moved into the home, which has dozens of rooms. Jefferson owned about 5,000 acres of land in Albemarle County, including the land around the home. He divided the land to create individual farms which grew a multitude of crops, including wheat, corn, and clover.

James Monroe

In 1774, Monroe inherited his family’s tobacco farm upon the death of his father. The estate was adjacent to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Albemarle County, Virginia. Monroe and his family called the land home for 24 years.

John Tyler

Tyler was born on a Virginia plantation in 1790. He left the family farm to become a lawyer and was soon serving in the Virginia legislature. In 1816, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and in 1840 became vice president under William Henry Harrison, who died 32 days after his inauguration. Tyler became the youngest president, but decided to re-connect with his roots by buying a 1,200-acre plantation called Sherwood Forest. After his term as president, Tyler moved to the Charles City, Virginia, farm where he cultivated more than 80 varieties of trees.

Abraham Lincoln

Throughout his childhood, Lincoln and his family moved several times, but each time they settled on a farm. One of the farms on which he lived as a boy in Knob Creek, Kentucky, is now a historic site, preserved by the National Park Service. The site features Lincoln’s parents’ bible, a boardwalk, and a symbolic cabin.

Ulysses S. Grant

After leaving the Army in 1854, Grant headed to his wife’s hometown in St. Louis, Missouri. He built a log cabin and tried farming the land given to them by his wife’s father but found the land difficult to work. The area was preserved by the family of August A. Busch, Sr., and named Grant’s Farm. Families visit Grant’s Farm each year to see animals and learn a little bit about the 18th president of the United States.

Harry S. Truman

In his early 20s, Truman gave up a career in banking to return to his family’s farmoutside of Kansas City, Missouri, where he fed farm animals, planted corn, helped his mom and sister with the cooking and joined the Farm Bureau, all while serving in the Missouri National Guard. When his father died in 1914, Truman took over the farm until World War I started, and he was sent to fight in France.

Jimmy Carter

Carter grew up on his parents’ peanut farm in Plains, Georgia, and during World War II served in the Navy. He resigned from the Navy and returned home in 1953 to run the family farm after his father was diagnosed with cancer. Because of a drought during his first year as a farmer, net profits totaled $187. It took about six years of hard work to make the peanut farm lucrative once again.

Published Feb. 15, 2016 on

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