Please join us in extending a belated and very warm official welcome to Monticello’s newest members of the Gardens and Grounds team: Michael Tricomi and Evan O’Neill. We recently sat down with each of them to discuss their accomplished backgrounds and learn about the important contributions they bring to our farm and gardens.
Monticello Vegetable Gardener
Hailing originally from the Hudson Valley region in New York, Michael Tricomi joined us at Monticello in March 2020. With a MA in history focusing on museums from George Mason University, Tricomi has worked as an intern at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, a substitute teacher, and a historical interpreter for the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, New York, giving tours and leading education programs. Prior to joining the Monticello garden team, he worked at an arboretum and two nurseries in New York State, and as head gardener for J.W. Townsend Landscapes locally in Charlottesville.
In his role as Monticello’s Vegetable Gardener, Tricomi is delighted to combine a self-described dual passion for history and horticulture. His many responsibilities include planning and maintaining Jefferson’s two-acre experimental gardens, supervising summer interns and garden assistants and interpreting the gardens for our guests. Using Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book as his guide, Tricomi determines where to plant and rotate crops for each growing season, manages the tilling and nourishing of the twenty-four plots (or “squares”) and conducts weeding and responsible pest control.
And the work continues: Tricomi also harvests produce for the Monticello café and local donations, collects the historic seed varieties allowed to set for propagation and gathers produce designated for special products such as our small batch hot sauce and Bloody Mary mix – all available for sale online and at The Shop.
Tricomi has been married to his wife for three years. He is the elated father of an eight-month-old son whose parents love and collect old and rare books, including children’s stories, which they read to him regularly.
And finally, because we know you’ll ask – what’s Tricomi’s favorite vegetable? Beans – all beans – because there’s so much diversity! The Brown Turkey fig (found in the submural beds below the bean arbor in our vegetable garden) is his hands-down pick for best fruit.
Stop by and say hello to Michael Tricomi on your next visit to Monticello.
Monticello Farm Associate
A New York State native, O’Neill moved to Virginia as a young boy and recalls that his family always maintained a connection to farming. Working on a private vegetable and small animal farm throughout high school, he attended the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University as an undergraduate, receiving a BS in Agricultural Science with two minors in Civic Agriculture and Leadership and Social Change. After graduating, O’Neill spent the next five years working for the Virginia Tech Animal and Poultry Science Research Farm housed on the campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Before joining Monticello in April 2021, O’Neill worked with local farmers developing pest management strategies for the Virginia Cooperative Extension. With a passion for vegetable growing, he is happy to join the Tufton Farm team to help guide and nurture our farm project and looks forward to establishing innovative technologies and sustainable standards such as on-site composting, crop rotation and cover crops to build up the soil structure going forward.
Day-to-day responsibilities for O’Neill at Tufton vary, but always include working the land and planning for upcoming planting and harvests. You’ll most often find him in the fields weeding, planting, pruning, harvesting and cultivating while listening to a podcast on new growing strategies as he labors. An aspiring apiarist, O’Neill is also learning his way around Monticello’s apiary with our accomplished Beekeepers, Paul LeGrand and Leslie Bouterie.
The growing season is well underway, with potatoes in abundance and heat-loving peppers and tomatoes enjoying a spectacular season. Most of the harvested produce goes directly to Monticello’s Farm Table café, where our culinary team aims to connect history with food – sharing with our visitors the pleasures of sustainable, organic and locally sourced ingredients. Visitors to Farm Table learn about Thomas Jefferson’s enthusiasm for local agriculture and his love of seasonal produce, along with the culinary legacy of generations of Monticello’s enslaved gardeners and cooks who raised the vegetables and prepared the food for Jefferson’s table. Whenever possible, excess produce is donated locally.
In his spare time O’Neill enjoys hiking and tinkering on projects, most of which include a car or two. Like Tricomi, he is also a fan of the beans (!), loves growing tomatoes, eating berries and making an epic, fresh summer salad.
We hope you’ll join us at Monticello in person this summer. And please come soon – the tomatoes are just ripening, the artichokes and cardoons are in full, purple-thistle bloom and the peppers are right behind!
If you can’t join us live to experience the dramatic, 1,000 foot-long garden terrace, be sure to browse the livestream, videos and podcast section of our Monticello website for an important selection of historical and present-day features about such topics as: agriculture and the Monticello plantation, life in the plantation fields, beekeeping, land use and management, gardens of the enslaved families at Monticello and much more.