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Thomas Jefferson and the Beekman Boys will converge at Virginia food fest

Thomas Jefferson? You probably think of him as part of the genius behind the Declaration of Independence. Or maybe as the third president of our then-fledgling nation.

But in September, a festival at his central Virginia home will offer another perspective: He was America’s founding foodie.

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The gardens that Thomas Jefferson tilled more than 200 years ago continue to produce a variety of fruits and vegetables. (Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello)

Visitors to Monticello, Jefferson’s estate just outside Charlottesville, learn that Jefferson’s accomplishments — quite apart from his formation of the precepts of our democracy -- included skills as a gardener. He grew 330 varieties of vegetables on the terraces just west of his mountaintop home.

Just ask the Fabulous Beekman Boys about living in both worlds. They'll be on hand too.

But first, Monticello’s west lawn will be the setting for the Heritage Harvest Festival on Sept. 12. Guests can visit with 90 vendors and exhibitors, interact with livestock and sample food from local farms and restaurants from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The setting is adjacent to Jefferson’s gardens, which continue to be cultivated.

Adult tickets are $15 if purchased in advance  or $20 at the gate. Children 5-11 will be admitted for $8.

Sept. 11 will feature a full day of food-related workshops  at various locations on the estate. Each is individually priced.

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Visitors interact with farm animals during the 2014 Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello. (Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello)

That evening, people will gather at Charlottesville’s Paramount Theater  for an opening night presentation by Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, better known as TV’s “Fabulous Beekman Boys."

The owners of Beekman Farm in upstate New York will speak on the “10 Things We Learned About Life by Becoming Goat Farmers: How Two Manhattan City Slickers Learned a Thing…or Two!”

"The Fabulous Beekman Boys," city slickers who became farmers, will be the keynote speakers at Monticello's harvest festival. (Beekman 1802)

Tickets cost $55.

Besides growing vegetables, Jefferson in 1807 planted a small vineyard containing 24 varieties of grapes. His attempts to produce wines similar to those he had enjoyed in France failed.

Monticello, about 115 miles southwest of Washington, is both a National Historic Landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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