While George Washington is honored as Commander-in-Chief, he thought of himself first and foremost as a farmer. Washington came to recognize the inadequacies of 18th-century farming techniques and began an untiring effort to improve his farming methods by experimenting with crop rotation, fertilizers, plowing practices and more – quite uncommon during the colonial era. He was among the first Virginia planters to abandon tobacco production in favor of wheat.
At Mount Vernon, the Pioneer Farm stretches over four acres adjacent to the wharf on the Potomac River. Here, guests can watch horses tread wheat in the ingenious two-story, 16-sided barn of Washington's design. Treading demonstrations take place daily July – September 3 at 10:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Demonstrations are offered weekends only (Fri. - Sun.) September 3 - October 28 at 10:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. During Fall Harvest Family Days, October 27-28, treading takes place at 10:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. A variety of 18th-century farming and cooking demonstrations also take place April – October.