The #1 reason why we need to overhaul our agricultural system is Knowledge, that is, the painful loss of it.  No matter where you stand on the Big Ag question, whether you are for it or against, there is no denying the fact that if we continue to lose the knowledge required to grow our own food we are perpetrating a serious crime against future generations.

Have you ever tried to learn to garden from a book?  I have, and I can assure you, it’s about impossible.  I read the gardening books and subscribe to the gardening magazines, but there is no reading on this topic that is equivalent to experiential learning.   Cooking is a similar art, to learn it requires a simple but rigorous formula:  Watch, Do, Repeat.

You might argue that thanks to technology, these particular skills can be learned now by video, viewable easily on YouTube.  In one small way you’d be right; you can find demonstration videos available on just about everything.  The problem is, the most important knowledge required for successful gardening is hyper-local.  This does not mean by region, by state, or exclusively by county either, as soil and insect and weather conditions vary within micro-climates sometimes even within the boundaries of one’s own property.  I have learned more speaking for a few minutes with experienced neighbors than I have in studying volumes of reading material.

So you might then argue that when one moves to a new area and might need or want to grow one’s own food then one can just hunt down the experienced neighbors and pump them for every conceivable piece of information.  Unfortunately, if that means moving to a rural location, you are likely to find you haven’t any neighbors, or if you do, that they are well over 70 years old and don’t have loads of energy to be teaching the young and clueless, and their kids don’t live nearby either, or if they do, they don’t garden.  Or, if you are really lucky and have some avid gardeners as neighbors, they most likely still subscribe rigorously to the “old-school” version of gardening, which offers the blanket solution to all problems pest and weed related: “Spray it.”  Not too helpful if you are attempting organic produce or are a wee bit concerned about the long-term effects of pesticides and herbicides on our land, water, and health.

What happens when we don’t pass down to our children such crucial knowledge as how to grow food or cook from scratch?  At best, we do them a big disservice, because while you may not desire a choice whether to feed yourself whatever is available at  the Big Chain restaurants or the local Krogers, they just might; At worst, we make them pawns to the whims of Big Ag.

And so ends my top 10 list, at last!  It has driven me to sign up for the local Master Gardner’s course beginning in April, and I’m already very anxious for it to begin.  I hope it may have inspired at least one of you to start questioning, if you had not already, where your food is coming from, how it was produced, and whether you wish to continue to unequivocally support such a system.  One of these days we will reach the tipping point, if we have not already, and our main concern will no longer be “What is working for us today?” and become “What will be sustainable for us tomorrow, and beyond?”

I have great hopes for us when I watch such exemplary youth as 11 year old Birke Baehr.

Thanks for reading and very Happy Holidays to y’all!