Holly Gruntner

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, College of William & Mary

2022 to 2023
Dissertation Fellow

Fertile Ground: Kitchen Gardens and Knowledge Production in Early America

"Fertile Ground: Kitchen Gardens and Knowledge Production in Early America" uses kitchen gardens to explore ordinary people’s horticultural knowledge from 1680 through 1830. It focuses on mid-Atlantic and northeastern British North America (and later, the United States), from Virginia to Maine. It centralizes people who were lower class, enslaved, or indentured. To understand their intellectual lives and how they put their knowledge to work, this dissertation pulls together a constellation of experiences, tasks, and knowledges of gardens and gardening. “Fertile Ground” argues that ordinary people’s horticultural knowledge was socially made and exchanged in a variety of contexts, through collaboration and conflict within households; buying and selling transactions that took place in stores, nurseries, and markets; and reading and annotating printed almanacs. Early American botanists, naturalists, and other professional scientists and scientific circles also relied heavily upon ordinary people's expertise and networks as they composed horticultural canons, treatises, and publications.