Not trying to hijack MLK day, like the the Commonwealth of Virginia did when I lived there, but I want to mention GWC. Mostly because this is a blog about a tiny farm. Today Metal Pig talked about George Washington Carver after reading a comment along the lines of, “If you think you’re not getting the resources you need, read about GWC…” That’s not an exact quote. It was something like that. Can’t believe I don’t go around thinking “What would George Washington Carver do?” Although sometimes I think, “What would Joan Jett do?” and that’s good, because she’s a great entertainer, citizen and intrepid entrepreneur. I am not two of those things, but it doesn’t hurt to think like her sometimes. Or like I think she thinks.
What were the most defining traits and experiences that Dr. Carver, a slave as a child who would later become a Master of Science? Can I relate to any of them? The couple who once owned him also homeschooled him, I think in part because he wasn’t a strong boy who could work the fields. The elementary education was at least one less obstacle but it could not have been easy. How did he think? Did he have a natural curiosity and obsession he pursued relentlessly? Did he have low or no expectations? He’s given credit for inventing peanut butter, which he didn’t, but he did popularize it. His breakthroughs include:
- Saving crops, such as cotton, from destruction by introducing crop rotation with legumes
- The science of improving nutrition in soil and the plants that grown in i
- Tapping the value in previously overlooked legumes, sweet potatoes and even useful wild plants (you know, weeds, like delicious purslane)
- Improving the health of many through improved nutrition by agricultural education and general resourcefulness
- Believing in, and promoting, harmony (many sources use the phrase “racial harmony” but I feel like his influence was not limited to race issues and “harmony” is more inclusive)
- He didn’t do it for the money, either. He was an academic, directing the Agricultural Department at what was then called Tuskegee Institute, and I’ve read that he turned down a very lucrative offer from Thomas Edison.
- My elementary school education