Corn and hay were the primary crops planted in these fields. A portion of the west farm field is planted annually by park staff with ryegrass, oats, or corn to evoke its historic agricultural character.
Hampton also had extensive formal gardens, first laid out in 1800 by Governor Charles Carnan Ridgely. In the 1830s-1850s, Eliza Ridgely, a renowned horticulturalist, updated the gardens with exotic trees and flowers. She also designed greenhouses and other garden structures.
Later Ridgely women also excelled at gardening, including Helen West Stewart Ridgely, an accomplished botanist, and Lillian Ketcham Ridgely, a wildflower photographer and author of a catalog of Maryland flora that became a standard reference.
Farms, gardens, greenhouses, and livestock, along with structures like the smoke house and icehouse (the latter is still open to explore on the mansion side) made the estate very nearly self-sustaining in terms of food. However, none of the natural bounty would have grown or appeared on tables in the Slave Quarters or the mansion's opulent Dining Room without the labor of enslaved farmers, gardeners, cooks, butlers, and maids, or later on, paid servants and staff who tended a vibrant landscape and a lavish table.
Read about Harriet Davis Smith and other cooks at Hampton.