Ramsey County History – Summer 2009: “Pith, Heart, and Nerve, Truman M. Smith: Horticulture as the Way Back”

Barry L. & Joan Miller Cotter

Pith, Heart, and Nerve, Truman M. Smith: Horticulture as the Way Back 
Authors: Barry L. & Joan Miller Cotter

This is the second article on Truman Smith—the first was in the Fall 2008 issue. This article reports how, after financial difficulties and the economic crash of the 1850s, Smith transformed himself into to a successful market gardener in St. Paul. Smith’s “Fruit Garden” was located in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood, and he was involved in what is now called “fringe farming.” Part of Smith’s goal was to convince outsiders that fruits, as well as vegetables, could be successfully grown in Minnesota’s northern climate. As such, he kept careful records of all his experiments. Using correspondence, newspaper accounts, and census data, the authors describe Smith’s experiences, successes as well as troubles, as he bought and sold nursery trees, made wine, and sold at the Farmer’s Market. Smith comes across as content with his new role, and he made a decent living at the endeavor. His personal philosophy of “ethical mutuality” eventually led him to become involved in the nascent Grange Movement in Minnesota after the Civil War.
PDF of Cotter article