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History of Farming in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C., the nation's capital, is known for its iconic monuments, museums, and political intrigue. But did you know that it also has a rich agricultural history?

That's right, folks! Before the city became the seat of the federal government, it was a thriving farming community. And while there are no longer any working farms within the city limits, (were changing that) its agricultural heritage can still be seen in the names of many of its neighborhoods, such as Bloomingdale, Cherrydale, and Takoma Park.

So, let's take a look at the lighter side of farming in Washington D.C., from its early days to the present:

Farming in the early days of Washington D.C.

The first farmers in Washington D.C. were the Indigenous Americans, who grew crops such as corn, beans, and squash. When the Europeans arrived in the 17th century, they introduced new crops, such as tobacco and wheat.

Farming was essential to the survival of the early settlers. They not only grew food for themselves, but they also sold crops to other settlers and to the British government.

Farming during the Civil War

During the Civil War, Washington D.C. became a major center for Union troops. The city's farmers were called upon to produce food for the soldiers, as well as for the many refugees who had fled to the city.

One of the most famous Civil War farms in Washington D.C. was the Arlington Plantation, which was owned by General Robert E. Lee. Lee's wife, Mary Custis Lee, had a learned a lot and was a skilled farmer, who managed the plantation during the war.

Farming after the Civil War

After the Civil War, many Indigenous and African Americans who had been freed from slavery became farmers in Washington D.C. They established freedmen's villages, where they could own their own land and grow their own food.

One of the most well-known freedmen's villages in Washington D.C. was Barry Farm. Barry Farm was founded in 1868 and it quickly became a thriving community. The farmers at Barry Farm grew a variety of crops, including tobacco, wheat, and vegetables.

Farming in the 21st century

Today, there are no longer any working farms within the city limits of Washington D.C. (aGro Culture is changing this.) However, the city's agricultural heritage is still celebrated in many ways.

For example, there are a number of farmers markets in Washington D.C., like the Capitol Hill Market, where people can buy fresh produce from local farmers. There are also a number of community gardens, where people can grow their own food.

Funny farming stories from Washington D.C.

Here are a few funny stories from the history of farming in Washington D.C.:

  • In 1841, a farmer in Washington D.C. named John Beale grew a watermelon that weighed over 100 pounds! The watermelon was so large that it had to be transported to the White House in a wagon.

  • In 1853, a farmer in Washington D.C. named James Smith invented the first mechanical reaper. The mechanical reaper was a machine that could harvest crops much faster than people could by hand.

  • In 1862, a group of farmers in Washington D.C. decided to start a dairy cooperative. The dairy cooperative was a group of farmers who worked together to produce and sell milk.


Farming has played an important role in the history of Washington D.C., from its early days to the present. While there are no longer any working farms ( aGro Culture got this) within the city limits, the city's agricultural heritage can still be seen in the names of many of its neighborhoods and in its many farmers markets and community gardens.

So, next time you're in Washington D.C., take a moment to appreciate the city's agricultural history. And who knows, you might even spot a giant watermelon or two!

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