Abundant Clean Water and Optimism


Screenshot 2014-11-11 11.23.40When had I last stayed in a $45 hotel? I didn’t know they existed anymore. The decor was simple, and the sheets clean—no problem with that. The bath water however, was piss-yellow.

I thought maybe it hadn’t been run for a while and might clear, or maybe the fire that the clerk told me had burnt half the rooms a few nights before had somehow left soot in the water lines. I opened the drain, turned the faucets full open, [Read more…]

Seed Beds: Bare-Root, Field-Grown Brassica Transplant Production


Martin and I recently visited Nash’s Organic Produce Farm in Sequim-Dungeness Valley and had a conversation with organic farmer Nash Huber about the use of Seed Beds to grow bare-root transplants for brassica crops. Both our farms produced high quality bare-root transplants at a fraction of the cost and labor of greenhouse grown transplants.

Bare-root red cabbage transplant ready for planting

Bare-root red cabbage transplant ready for planting

Pre-1970s it was common practice to produce cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, onions, tomatoes and peppers as bare root transplants in hot-beds, the garden, or in the field. Bare-root plants were also grown in the south and shipped to northern growers.

Seedbed of organic broccoli bare-root transplants

Seedbed of organic broccoli bare-root transplants

Martin and I grew about $200,000 worth of cabbage and broccoli annually from bare-root transplants that were started outside weekly in seedbeds from May 1 to mid-July. This saved us labor and inputs costs and enabled us to manage the farm with significantly less greenhouse space.

When we discussed this with Nash we found we had all learned the technique from old-timer market-gardeners. On both Nash’s and our farm we had developed similar techniques to stale bed with basket weeders for today’s production needs.

As many beginning farmers and gardeners ask me how to grow bare-root transplants (YES! this works at all scales: farmers and gardeners alike), I’m providing a link to a 9-page manual I wrote detailing our seedbed production process.


Happy spring! Soon the soil will warm and it will be seed planting time!


bare-root1 (1 of 1)

140 IH tractor with basket weeder creating stale beds for transplant seeding

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© Atina Diffley 2014




Turn Here Sweet Corn . . . the corn dance



For those of you who have already read Turn Here Sweet Corn, here’s a wild video to supplement your mental image of the Corn Dance. For those of you who haven’t yet read . . . after watching this video of the Pipeline Energizer and The Organic Pheromones, follow the links below. [Read more…]

Marketing, Postharvest Handling, and Food Safety for Vegetable Growers


In my last post I told you that I had a busy winter doing farmer trainings on post harvest handling, food safety, and marketing in 29 cities nationally. Thanks goes to the USDA Risk Management Agency for funding these trainings and familyfarmed.org for development and administration. Attendees received a 5 hour training and a copy of  “Wholesale Success” , edited by Jim Slama and Atina Diffley. Several of the host partners recorded the trainings and they can now be viewed on-line. Share this link with your vegetable farming friends!

Agriculture Expert, Atina Diffley, Encourages Local Growers to Differentiate Their Product

Market research starts long before the seed is in the ground. Learning how to actively seek buyers, negotiate contracts, and build relationships with wholesalers, consumers, and other farmers is crucial for small and mid-sized farmers to succeed—and it’s not a passive process. A Wholesale Success workshop in Leelanau County gave local food producers an opportunity to learn how to enhance their success in the marketplace. Wholesale Success program trainer Atina Diffley said it’s important for local growers to add value to their products and differentiate themselves from large producers.

Wholesale Success: Farmer Training Videos, Marketing, Postharvest Handling, and Food Safety

Louisville Farm to Table sponsored “Wholesale Success,” a two-day event focused on helping farmers learn important tips of the trade, and how to connect with buyers. Consultant Atina Diffley teaches how to pick and handle produce crops to keep them not only safe, but high quality, and how to keep records of performing these tasks. 4.5 hour video training. To purchase the Familyfarmed.org, Wholesale Success Manual visit Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Selling, Post Harvest Handling, and Packing Produce.

© Atina Diffley 2013

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Busy months behind and ahead.


I’ve been on the road more often than not since December with “Wholesale Success” doing farmer trainings on post harvest handling, food safety, and marketing for familyfarmed.org in 29 cities nationally. Four trainings left to go in S.C., Al., MS., and IN. I’m enjoying meeting farmers all over the country and deepening my understanding of local and organic market development. The travel has been a little brutal and hasn’t left creative energy for this blog. I’m looking forward to spring, the family garden, starting the next book, and returning to blog writing.

As a family we’re planning our 1st formal “family garden.” We’ve always had a personal “kitchen garden” with herbs and salad greens near the house, but we haven’t had an official “family garden” since 1990 when it was bulldozed in Eagan.  We’re really excited about this, three generations in the garden together–planting, weeding, harvesting, and the family meals and [Read more…]

Dear Valerie: Cigars and Tobacco Mosaic Virus


On Dec 4, 2012, at 6:02 PM, Valerie . . .  wrote to Atina Diffley:

Hi Atina,

Firstly I LOVE your book!

My husband and a group of his friends get together about once a month and smoke cigars. Last summer one evening it was at our house and they smoked on the back deck which is level with and about 8′ away from my vegetable garden. I did not put it together with the smoking but my tomatoes were a total flop last year. Some people said it was blight. This year when the smoker was at our house it rained so they moved it to my front porch nowhere near my vegetable garden. I had a nice crop this year . . .  actually still have kale growing. Before I become the wicked witch and ban the guys from smoking here do you think it was the tobacco mosaic you speak about on page 310 that messed up my crop last year. It seemed like no matter what I did they just seemed dehydrated. My husband suggested I contact you before I ban the smoker.

A tobacco plant infected with Tobacco Mosaic Virus. Knapp, E. and Lewandowski, D. J. 2001. Tobacco mosaic virus, not just a single component virus anymore. Molecular Plant Pathology 2(3):117–123. Article first published online : 21 DEC 2001, DOI: 10.1046/j.1364-3703.2001.00064.x

Thank you!!


On Dec 11, 2012 at 1:02 pm Atina Diffley responded: [Read more…]

The Atina Diffley Kitchen and Give To CURE!


Guess! Where in the world is the Atina Diffley Kitchen!

What could be better than having a kitchen named after oneself!

The Atina Diffley Kitchen in the Writer’s Retreat at CURE in Montevideo, MN.

Today is GGive to the MaxIVE TO THE MAX DAY in Minnesota! On Thursday, November 15, every donation you make gives your favorite organizations the chance to win even more money. Here’s my pick for 2012. I hope you’ll join me in supporting CURE, a MN non-profit that is making a BIG difference.

CLEAN UP THE RIVER ENVIRONMENT is doing quadruple duty. There’s our precious Water, CURE is leading the charge in cleaning up the Minnesota River. They protect Soil. To clean up the river they work to create more living cover on the land–they want more buffer strips everywhere! And Fertilizer–a lot of “nutrients” get into the river by attaching themselves to soil particles, so keeping the soil covered can help stop nutrient pollution as well. And on top of all that CURE supports Writers!

Upstairs of their office in downtown Montevideo CURE has built a writers retreat which they graciously made available to me when I started writing Turn Here Sweet Corn. Each of the retreat rooms are named after authors. There’s the Paul Gruchow Parlor, and the Joseph Amato Study, Joe and Nancy Paddock have a hall named after them, and I slept in the Florence Dacey Bedroom when I wrote there. The Athena Kildegaard Bedroom is just down the hall, and now I am absolutely tickled, pleased giddy-silly, and honored red to be part of this amazing group of passionate writers and to tell you that the the Atina Diffley Kitchen has recently been christened!!! [Read more…]

GMO Sweet Corn Varieties and Genetic-Contamination – Just Label It!


In Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works, I wrote about cross-pollination and the threat of genetically modified organisms.

If our sweet corn is cross-pollinated by neighboring field corn, it is not sweet nor is it marketable. Martin manages this threat by recording the dates of all the developmental stages for our crop, as well as the neighbors’ planting and pollen dates. He then adjusts his varieties and planting sequence by what the neighbors plant and when. But genetic contamination is impossible to avoid completely. When there are field corn–pollinated kernels in our sweet corn, they are visible; dark yellow kernels mixed in like polka dots among the small, tender sweet corn kernels. But now there is an even larger challenge and looming threat. [Read more…]

Organic Certification Cost Share Program


Minnesota’s organic certification cost share program is now accepting applications!

Often I hear that farmers decide to not certify because of the cost, and when I tell them about the federal cost share program — which can rebate up to 75 percent of the cost of their organic certification — they were not aware of it. If you are a supporter of an organic farm, you can support them but letting them know about this opportunity. Farmers: this is a federal program, check with your state’s department of agriculture to learn their process [Read more…]