If you look over at page 5, you’ll see an item under “Look What’s Growing!” about the USDA launching VegScape, a crop condition monitoring system. It looks like an interesting and useful tool. A presentation from the 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum (www.usda.gov/oce/forum/presentations/Mueller.pdf) says that one of the goals of VegScape is to support the “ethos of data democratization.”

Death has been called the great equalizer, along with education, time, guns, and who knows what else. I think technology could be added to the list. Increasingly, technology is giving more people greater access to an ever-widening range of information. How much society is benefiting from this is debatable. Facebook, Twitter and other social media certainly give people the ability to share all sorts of stupid ideas that in former times might have stayed safely locked in their minds. I fear we may all be less intelligent for it. And don’t even get me started on the rampant typos and cringe-inducing text-speak. Nope, not going there, or this will take up the entire magazine.

Cellphones are a fantastic innovation, even if having one means I can’t remember anyone’s number (except my dad’s landline, which I’ve known since I was a kid). I have yet to jump on the smartphone bandwagon. I used my stupidphone to send a picture to a friend of mine, and she said her smartphone must be too smart for her, because she couldn’t view what I sent.

E-readers are another piece of technology I have mixed feelings about. I have one, and they come in really handy sometimes. I’m currently reading a book that’s 1,184 pages in paperback (I won’t say what it’s about, because that would make my nerdiness even more obvious), so it’s nice to be reading it on my slim, lightweight e-reader instead. I miss holding a real book in my hands, however, and I can’t imagine abandoning them entirely.

I often wonder how I got through life before Google. I love having a world of information at my fingertips. Of course, we also have things like Grumpy Cat. Useful? No. Entertaining? Yes. Sometimes you just have to shake your head at the ridiculous things on the Internet, but you can’t let your life be all work and no silly memes, right?

One innovation that will most likely not bring us perpetually grouchy felines, but should bring us a safer, more efficient food supply chain, is the Produce Traceability Initiative and all the technology that can be used to implement it. Like any other technology, produce tracking has its good and bad points. It can be quite costly to implement, but it will make things a lot smoother in the event of a produce recall. Turn to page 6 to read more about where PTI stands. And if you don’t know what I mean by Grumpy Cat, Google it. You’ll thank me later, I promise.

Stephanie Peake