Growing up on a suburban street in Paris, Texas, my family never maintained a vegetable garden. I had no idea that canning was something a person could do by herself. I barely learned how to sew, knit, and crochet. I still do not know how to make lace, or a flaky pie crust, for that matter.
I've also figured out that I'm not the only one who isn't skilled in the domestic arts. In fact, most people of my generation do not know what it takes to be self sufficient and self reliable. Because we grew up with the convenience of TV dinners, pre-made clothes, and available fruits and vegetables all year round, we have no connection to the land and subsequently, to our heritage.
Historians concerned with post-modern America (ca. 1945-on) have theorized that the disconnect younger generations feel towards the land is due to the hardships their parents endured in the Great Depression. As the land failed millions of people - and was sold practically beneath their feet to big farming corporations - former farmers began to distrust the agricultural system in general. Making a living off of a few acres proved impossible in the modern world, and family farms became a distant memory.
The heritage of Texas and Oklahoma, however, is the land. With our wide open spaces, nutrient rich prairies, and acres of grazing land, our history is intimately connected to the way of life of farmers. The Caddo farmed communal land; the white and Latino settlers broke the sod for commercial crops; and black freedmen found both bondage and freedom in turning the soil.
So how can we reconnect with our farming heritage? One way is to buy produce at the various roadside stands manned by local farmers. We can also try our hands at maintaining small vegetable gardens of our own. We can write down family recipes, keep heirloom blankets and quilts, and teach children how to hoe a garden, make jelly, and sew a doll.
History comes alive when you actively participate in your culture. By keeping a connection to the land, we can continue to leave a legacy that is much more real than any farm implement display in a museum.