Turn Here Sweet Corn
Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works
by Atina Diffley
344 pages • 1 b&w illustration • 5 b&w photos • 29 color photos • Available April 2012
Published by University of Minnesota Press
A master class in organic farming, a lesson in entrepreneurship, a love story, and a legal thriller… In telling her story of working the land, Atina Diffley reminds us that we live in relationships—with the earth, plants and animals, families and communities. A memoir of making these essential relationships work in the face of challenges from weather to corporate politics, this is a firsthand history of getting in at the “ground level” of organic farming.
When the hail starts to fall, Atina Diffley doesn’t compare it to golf balls. She’s a farmer. It’s “as big as a B-size potato.” As her bombarded land turns white, she and her husband Martin huddle under a blanket and reminisce: the one-hundred-mile-per-hour winds; the eleven-inch rainfall (“that broccoli turned out gorgeous”); the hail disaster of 1977. The romance of farming washed away a long time ago, but the love? Never. In telling her story of working the land, coaxing good food from the fertile soil, Atina Diffley reminds us of an ultimate truth: we live in relationships—with the earth, plants and animals, families and communities.
A memoir of making these essential relationships work in the face of challenges as natural as weather and as unnatural as corporate politics, her book is a firsthand history of getting in at the “ground level” of organic farming. One of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest, the Diffleys’ Gardens of Eagan helped to usher in a new kind of green revolution in the heart of America’s farmland, supplying their roadside stand and a growing number of local food co-ops. This is a story of a world transformed—and reclaimed—one square acre at a time.
And yet, after surviving punishing storms and the devastating loss of fifth-generation Diffley family land to suburban development, the Diffleys faced the ultimate challenge: the threat of eminent domain for a crude oil pipeline proposed by one of the largest privately owned companies in the world, notorious polluters Koch Industries. As Atina Diffley tells her David-versus-Goliath tale, she gives readers everything from expert instruction in organic farming to an entrepreneur’s manual on how to grow a business to a legal thriller about battling corporate arrogance to a love story about a single mother falling for a good, big-hearted man.
Atina Diffley is the neighbor we didn’t know we had! Her new book, Turn Here Sweet Corn, is heart-felt, heart-warming, heart-stopping, and in the end heart-soaring! Her story of the challenges and rewards of organic farming at Gardens of Eagan is full of places and people we know, Wisconsin and Minnesota landscapes we’ve lived in and traveled through, and friends we’ve met along the way. That said, whether you’re from the upper Midwest, New England, California, or someplace in between, you’ll love Turn Here Sweet Corn! Ms. Diffley is clearly a poet speaking from her heart and yet she has a steel backbone when it comes to meeting the challenges of nature, changing land use, and encroachment by the world’s most notorious polluters, Koch Industries. GoodFood World Staff
What strikes me most about this amazing memoir is that for those of us who aren’t farmers but who are versant in such issues as organics, soil building, diversity, GMOs, certification and more—it is utterly different to hear how the farmer herself grapples with them in her daily life. Unlike reading about the same issues in an article, it’s immediate, powerful, tender, heartbreaking and above all, encouraging. — Deborah Madison, author of Local Flavors, Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers Markets
This book is wonderful on so many levels: the swift moving and dramatic story of Atina and Martin Diffley, the farmers of Gardens of Eagan, as they confront wild weather, development pressure, and pipelines. The transformation of Tina into Atina, from confused teenager to strong, passionate, and committed leader in organic agriculture. A powerful argument for organic farming and a must read for anyone thinking of farming—a vivid and realistic picture of the beauties, satisfactions, and stresses of farming as a way of life. And finally, a vision of hope for the future: blending intuitive faith in our oneness with Nature, the most advanced biological science, and the power of community. — Elizabeth Henderson, author of Sharing The Harvest: A Citizen’s Guide to Community Supported Agriculture
Turn Here Sweet Corn is an unexpected page-turner. Atina Diffley’s compelling account of her life as a Minnesota organic farmer is deeply moving not only from a personal standpoint but also from the political. Diffley reveals the evident difficulties of small-scale organic farming but is inspirational about its value to people and the planet. — Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat
One family’s quest to build, maintain and protect their organic farm. “When people ask what I most cherish about farming, what comes is the depth of intimacy–with plants and nature, with coworkers in the field and at the stand, with produce buyers and customers,” writes Diffley, an organic vegetable farmer who founded, with her husband, the consulting business Organic Farming Works. Beginning with her work on her family’s farm, the author expresses a love for the soil and all that grows in it; she knows in her heart she is, and always will be, a farmer. She did a stint as a migrant farmer before settling down with her husband, raising children and creating an organic farm of their own. The journey has been rewarding but rarely easy or without complications. Diffley expresses the heartbreak and anguish of losing land to development and fighting to keep her Minnesota farm, Gardens of Eagan, from being overrun by a pipeline. She explains the importance of seeds, their roots and cultivating the soil to best nurture them. “I still think God can be in the form of raindrops, and it is fascinating to me that I can pray for or curse the same drops,” she writes, expressing the terror and benefits of a single storm. Through it all, the support of other organic farmers, neighbors and the people and co-ops that relied on her harvests kept Diffley and her family going and growing. An education on organic farming and its importance, as well as a heartfelt love letter to the land. — Kirkus Reviews
. . . Throughout the memoir, even in the midst of hailstorms, droughts, and a killer lawsuit, Diffley possesses a blend of strength, faith, and ferocious passion. She’s not afraid to articulate the pain and frustration that can come with farming. She holds on to her dedication by a thin, wispy thread that seems to fray at the worst moments but, thankfully, never breaks. She believes in a spiritual connection to the soil and in a food system that has the power to bring community together. By offering a look inside her own experience, and often her own heart, Diffley creates a multifaceted, powerful, and compelling memoir about trying to live organically…. read more Elizabeth Millard