On Losing Our Rootedness in the Soil

Most people of my grandparents’ generation had an intuitive sense of agricultural basics: when various fruits and vegetables come into season, which ones keep through the winter, how to preserve the others. On what day autumn’s frost will likely fall on their county, and when to expect the last one in spring. Which crops can be planted before the last frost, and which must wait. What animals and vegetables thrive in one’s immediate region and how to live well on those, with little else thrown into the mix beyond a bag of flour, a pinch of salt, and a handful of coffee. Few people of my generation, and approximately none of our children, could answer any of those questions, let alone all of them. This knowledge has largely vanished from our culture.

by Barbara Kingsolver | Orion Magazine March-April 2007

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. She is right. In my family, my great-grandparents lived on and were sustained by their farm and animals they raised. My grandmother had all the same knowledge, my mom had some of it – and I know nothing about it except a little gardening. It is too bad this has happened all over the world, but mainly here in the US.

  2. I think the number of people with this knowledge has severely declined, but it hasn’t vanished. Not in the south, anyway. And I’d have to disagree that the knowledge is or was in any way intuitive!