Washington Was One of, If Not the Most, Innovative Farmer of His Time
After the Revolutionary War, Washington turned his attention back to the improvement of his Mount Vernon plantation. What many people do not realize is that Washington was one of the most, if not the most, innovative farmer of his time – equivalent to the Bill Gates of his time (but in agricultural improvements as to computers). This included being one of the first plantation owners to switch from growing tobacco, which depleted the soil, to such crops as wheat. He also mixed a jackass with a horse to innovate the American mule, which helped to make America the leader in the world in agriculture because the mule was more efficient than the oxen that had previously been used. Mules were to become the dominant more of power for plowing, harvesting and other farm task until the tractor was invented in the 1900s – or for almost 200 years. Washington also developed a large fishery in which he salted the fish and shipped them for sale around the world, constructed a mill for grinding grain which he then also shipped around the world, built his own ship for shipping goods to Europe, and built the largest distillery in America. Washington was also an inventor, developing a plow that included a feature to simultaneously sew the seed, thus saving labor, and invented a threshing barn where horses trammelled the harvest wheat with the seeds falling between cracks in the floor to another room below. This was much cleaner the manual method of threshing wheat with flailing tools that had been used up to that time. Washington maintained a large library of books at Mount Vernon, with a large number of them dealing with agriculture. Washington also corresponded to individuals around the world on new methods of fertilizer and other improved farming practices. Washington’s success as a farmer made him one of the richest men in America.