Jackson always called it a farm.
A plantation is a large farm devoted primarily to growing a singular type of crop for profit. In the United States prior to the Civil War, enslaved workers performed the grueling labor on plantations. By definition then, The Hermitage was a plantation during Andrew Jackson’s life and made cotton its business.
Vegetables. Fruit. Livestock.
Though cotton was the cash crop at The Hermitage, it was not the only one grown. Corn was raised primarily to provide basic sustenance for the enslaved. Oats, wheat, barley and other grains were produced to feed the Jackson Family or as fodder for livestock. Garden crops, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas and beans, were also planted by the enslaved.
The Hermitage also had orchards with diverse varieties of apples, pears, peaches, quince, cherries and other fruits. Hogs supplied the basic allotment of protein. Milk cows, beef cattle and sheep also provided food for The Hermitage residents, enslaved and free. Hay from the pastures fed animals and wood from the woodlot heated the mansion.
Jackson even raised and trained racehorses. This was primarily for pleasure rather than profit or function.
Farming with the Family
After the death of Andrew Jackson Jr. in 1865 and subsequently of his son Samuel from wounds suffered at the Battle of Chickamauga, Sarah Jackson and her son, Andrew Jackson III, were left to farm The Hermitage. They were assisted by tenant farmers and a few day laborers.
Consequently, the Jacksons reported no cotton production at all in 1870 and 1880. Livestock and grain output were greatly reduced. Additionally, they only produced 500 pounds of butter in 1870, half that of 1850.
Alfred Jackson, a former slave who remained at The Hermitage as a tenant farmer, produced one bale of cotton in 1870 and two bales in 1880. Most of his 40 acres were devoted to subsistence farming for his family.
When the Tennessee Confederate Soldiers’ Home was established in 1889, able-bodied residents assisted in farming The Hermitage in order to supply food for the home. When the Soldiers’ Home closed in 1933, the Ladies’ Hermitage Association hired workers to farm the land in order to help support the museum. A small farming and cattle breeding operation continued at The Hermitage through the 1980s.
The Hermitage Farm Today
Today, The Hermitage is still a functional farm. One can even still pick cotton during season. Come explore over 1,100 acres of land, featuring a refurbished nature trail, a modern farming operation (growing corn, wheat, and soybeans in rotation) and hundreds of flowers in The Hermitage Garden.
In addition to the mansion tour, visitors are welcome to picnic on the lawns underneath the trees or enjoy a 19th century-style wagon ride through the property.
Take a relaxing stroll across the grounds or a glimpse into history in your afternoon retreat to The Hermitage.Tour the farm