The Museum Garden reflects the agricultural traditions of Montgomery County during the period of slavery and is at the heart of our heirloom preservation program. We grow rare or endangered crops in order to save seed and keep these varieties alive. The garden also serves as a location for demonstrations and activities.

In the 19th century, Montgomery County’s agricultural heritage reflected the diverse traditions that had shaped the land for 10,000 years. The Museum Garden reflects the Native American, African, and European cultures that transformed the landscape that, in turn, transformed its inhabitants. Look for two special crops that drove the economy during the slavery period, and discover the role they played in the development of Maryland agriculture.

The "Three Sisters" of Farming

About Tobacco

Chute tobacco tmbEastern North American indigenous people considered tobacco a gift from the Creator, and tobacco smoke was seen as carrying one's thoughts and prayers to the Spirits.

Spanish explorers transported tobacco to Europe where it quickly became popular smoked in pipes or rolled into cigars.

As the craze to smoke the new "weed" swept England, prices became extraordinarily high because the Spanish had a monopoly on the supply. This situation began to change in 1612, when John Rolfe, an early Virginia settler, planted tobacco seeds that had been smuggled out of Venezuela at Jamestown.

Maryland's settlers quickly joined in the boom from this cash crop and planted Oronoco tobacco. By the early 1670s, over 10 million pounds of tobacco were being exported from the Chesapeake area to Europe.

About Cotton

Maryland was the northern-most state of the southern slaveholding region. Tobacco was the chief cash crop in the 18th century Chesapeake region, though other crops played vital roles too. Brown Cotton is one of the heirloom crops we grow at Button Farm. While not grown widely in Maryland it was used by Quakers in the production of cotton “twist” and other products at their Triadelphia Factory, near Brookeville, Maryland.

 

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