In another life, I might have been a scientist. Not a chemist or a physicist – I took both subjects in high school and did well, but I did not care for them. That might have had something to do with all the math involved. Biology, on the other hand, I loved. I took two years of it in high school and sometimes wish I’d pursued it in college.

We studied plants, which I didn’t really appreciate until I took botany in college. We learned about animals, which were far more interesting to me. Except for the time we had to dissect a cat. The class was divided into groups. Two-thirds of my team (a friend and I) spent the first day of the dissection doggedly trying to separate the poor creature from its hide. We made very little progress, which I chalk up to dull scalpels and inexperience, and certainly not to squeamishness. The following day, the third member of our team was back in school, and he had that thing skinned in no time flat. I imagine his hunting experience came in handy.

What interested me most of all was diseases. I was perhaps inordinately excited about getting assigned the topic of Ebola for a paper. What could be more fun than researching and writing about a devastating hemorrhagic fever? I also recall devouring a fascinating book about the 1918 flu pandemic and the virus responsible for it. It’s really quite amazing that, in spite of all our technology and intelligence, we can be brought down so easily by something so small and relatively simple.

So why, you may be wondering, am I not a virologist? I suppose my other academic interests were just a bit stronger, and in the end it seemed safer to play with words than viruses. I can still get my science fix by reading articles and books. It’s awesome that there is so much information literally at my fingertips, and I can learn about anything I want, whenever I want. My grandfather only had an eighth-grade education, but he read voraciously, because he believed you should never stop learning.

I’ve learned a lot in the last year as the editor of Growing. I like to put research-related items in our e-newsletters. (Do you get those? If not, you should sign up.) But there’s a lot more to this industry than mapping watermelon genomes and putting spinach genes in citrus. Even the most basic elements of growing produce are more complicated than one might guess. I never really thought much about soil, for instance. I was vaguely aware that fertilizer was part of the growing process, but I never stopped to consider how much attention needs to be paid to soil and how it’s managed. You can read more about that subject on page 6.

In closing, I would like to impart some words of wisdom. Never stop learning. It makes you a smarter person, and I would argue it also makes you a better person. Learn something outside your usual area of expertise. And there is indubitably more than one way to skin a cat, but the best (and least icky) way is to leave it to someone who knows what they’re doing.

Stephanie Peake

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