‘Getting Word’ project preserves history


Hello again!

After a few short days of respite from the winter cold, the snow is once again claiming the landscape as its own. The hint of spring brought with it the urge to look at seed catalogs and the thoughts and smell of newly turned soil. Most of our readers know the sweet smell I refer to, and even if you no longer garden, will stop to ponder and relish in the recollection.

Some of the most beautiful gardens I have seen are those of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Each time I have had the privilege to visit Monticello I am amazed at the size and variety of plants and trees there and the immensity of the task of caring for such a place.

You can order seeds from the Monticello website. That is how I came across the “Getting Word” oral history project that was begun in 1993 to preserve the histories of the African- American families at Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation.


Under the title of “People of Monticello” and then :gardening,” I came across the name of Wormley Hughes which caught my eye. Wormley Hughes was born at Monticello in March 1781, the son of Betty Heming’s daughter Bett, also known as Betty Brown.

He worked in the nailery from the age of 13 (1794) until at least 1809. As a boy, he also worked in the house, although his precise duties are not known.

Wormley, who took the surname of Hughes, was trained as a gardener, probably by Robert Bailey, the Scottish gardener who worked at Monticello from 1794 through 1796.

References to Hughes’ gardening activities are frequent in Jefferson’s records: he planted seeds, bulbs and trees sent back from Washington; prepared and planted flower beds, and took up bulbs for the winter; and spread dung in the vegetable garden.

Thomas Jefferson’s granddaughter, Ellen, remembered that Wormley, “armed with spade and hoe” assisted Jefferson in laying out the Monticello flower beds. He also cleared several roads on the mountaintop. In 1801 he blasted rock for the construction of the Shadwell Canal.

Hughes dug the grave of his master in July 1826. He was informally freed by Martha Jefferson Randolph, apparently at Jefferson’s recommendation.

As you consider the magnitude of the work done at Monticello, you can also imagine the number of people required to carry on this work. Wormley Hughes was just one of the 125 servants and slaves working at Monticello at the turn of the 19th century.

You can read and learn more about “Getting Word” and the men and women like Wormley Hughes at www.monticello.org.


As we approach a new DCP and Acre sign-up, we want to remind producers that compliance with Highly Erodible Land Conservation and Wetland Conservation provisions is required.

These provisions apply to most FSA and NRCS programs to ensure eligibility. Farmers with HEL determined soils are reminded of tillage, crop residue, and rotation requirements as specified in their conservation plans. NRCS is required to conduct status reviews on a percentage of farms every year to ensure conservation plans are being followed on HEL tracts.

Producers should notify FSA prior to conducting land clearing or drainage projects to ensure compliance. This includes clearing trees or brush, bringing any acreage into agricultural production, even if it was in production at some point in the past, taken out of production and now being brought back into production. This has been part of overall program policy since 1985.

If you are planning on installing new tile or grading wet spots in a field, contact your FSA county office before starting work. The same goes for clearing trees to create new cropland.

Don’t jeopardize your eligibility for benefits if there is any question about a project. It is your responsibility to notify FSA and NRCS of your intentions before you begin work.

Contact your local FSA office for more information.

That’s all for now,

FSA Andy


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