Public Speaking and Workshops



Public Speaking and Farmer Training

Farmer Training: I provide training in growing systems, marketing, food safety, postharvest handling, organic soil health and fertility, weed management,writing, healthy relationships, and more.

Keynote: I speak to farmers, consumers, business about their relationship to the land that feeds them and their role as educators and change makers.

Public Speaking: I speak to a wide range of audiences on their food relationship with land and nature and the impacts of agriculture.

Below is a list of workshops I have taught. I am happy to adjust the focus of a workshop to meet your audience’s needs or combine several or develop a new one.

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  • Inquire:  atina ( at) organicfarmingworks (dot) com

Farmers as Role Models and Leaders: Protecting Nature and Creating Social Change

We live in relationships—with the earth, plants and animals, families and communities. Farmers are the crucial link between the land and the people who take their nourishment from the land. We have powerful relationships with the people we feed. As stewards of the land and water, the responsibility of representing nature falls to farmers. Join author and organic farmer, Atina Diffley, in considering opportunities to role model, educate, and lead as farmers.


Marketing Strategies for Vegetable Growers

Marketing is not a passive process–market research starts long before the seed is in the ground. Find the right market outlet to match your skills and personality, land, crop mix, and customer’s needs. In this class we’ll discuss trends in the food market and the pros and cons of various marketing models, from roadside stands to farmers markets, csa, agri-tourism, restaurants, pick-your-on, on-line sales, and wholesale to retail and brokers. We’ll discuss marketing methods, production decisions, pricing strategies, and merchandising and how to actively seek buyers, negotiate contracts, build relationships with buyers.

Growing Customers, Reaping Profit

No matter what market you serve, success is built upon the strength of your relationships and the quality and consistency of your produce. Do you expect your customers to meet your needs or do you plan to meet theirs? What do you stand for? What can you do best? What is most important to your customers, price, quality or service? Can you deliver all three? This workshop presents tools and strategies to build a relationship-based farm business focused on service and quality. Learn how to adjust your marketing, production, and agronomic plans to meet your customer’s needs.

Brand Name and Relationship Marketing: Tell Your Farm’s Story

One of the most powerful ways you can create stability in your market is through name brand marketing. It isn’t just produce your customers want and need. The opportunity to have a relationship with your farm has a value with a shelf life much longer than fresh food. It also creates goodwill and a committed customer who will support you when disasters hits. To build a committed relationship with your customers learn to tell a compelling story about yourself, your farm, and your products.

Selling Produce to Retailers

From bunch sizes and lot codes to sequential planting and quality control, selling to retail stores requires meeting the buyer’s needs and maintaining quality and consistency through attentive to details. Learn how to serve the wholesale market and make your farm a highly desired source of fresh produce. Learn what it takes to keep your retail buyer coming back for more.

Post-Harvest and Food Safety

Keep The Quality: Post-Harvest Handling For Vegetable Farms

What you do in the packing shed often makes the critical difference between vegetables that sit around and vegetables that sell and hold their quality long after they have left the farmer’s hands. Come learn the tools, techniques, and philosophies that guide a quality packing operation.

Class Handouts | Storage Requirements For Vegetables  | Respiration Rates of Vegetables

Designing Your Packing Shed

A well-designed packing shed is a crucial component of an efficient farming operation and is important for post harvest quality and food safety. This workshop will discuss crucial components of packing sheds and scale appropriate and economically viable ways to meet your farms needs. Includes video tours of packing sheds of different scales.

Sorting and Packing For Wholesale Markets

Wholesale buyers selling into the retail market expect to receive high quality produce packed to USDA industry standards. Come learn about packing standards: size, shape, and uniformity, grading, proper cartons, liners, and unit packaging, are all crucial components of a well-packed carton. Learn what it takes to keep your wholesale buyer coming back for more and willing to pay a premium for your produce.

Food Safety For Vegetable Farms

If you grow produce and sell it you are a food handler and are responsible for the “wellness” of your product. Food safety needs to be understood and implemented by every farmer, no matter what size, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all. This workshop is designed for small to mid-scale fruit and vegetable growers and provides the information needed to develop a Food Safety Plan that meets your farm’s needs.

On-line Food Safety Plan Tools | On-Farm Food Safety ProjectFood Safety Plan Template

Food Safety: Six Simple and Key Areas

Food safety is something that every farm, no matter its size or financial position, must attend to. Having a food safety mindset does not necessarily mean having state-of-the-art equipment. This workshop will provide key areas of food safety and discuss standard operations to minimize risk and embed safe practices into your daily operations. We will discuss: 1. Worker health and hygiene training, 2. Agricultural water  3. Animal-derived soil amendments  4. Animals (wildlife and domestic), 5. Facilities and food contact surfaces, and 6. Record keeping and traceability.

Writing a Food Safety Plan

You are a “food handler.” Your customers rely on you to minimize potential food safety risks. Writing a Food Safety Manual specific to your farm operation is a valuable tool to access and develop your food safety system. It will also help you train staff to your expectations and hold them accountable. Atina Diffley will go through the basic components of a food safety plan and take you to online resources to help you write a plan and keep the necessary records for traceability.

Food Safety Modernization Act – Where Do I Start?

With the Food Safety Modernization Act being a focus for years to come, developing and implementing sound plans on your farm–whatever size–is a huge part of a small farms’ resilience and success. What, why, who, and resources on food safety for your farm.

Organic and Sustainable Farming Systems

Weed Management On An Organic Vegetable Farm: Bio-Systems And Tools

Successful weed management in an organic system requires much more than good cultivation. Atina Diffley will discuss weed physiology and management using rotations, seed bed reduction, fertility, stale bedding making, cover crops, habitat for biological life, and tillage equipment, in relation to the agronomic principles of an organic farming system.

Vegetable Crop Rotations for Nutrient Cycling and Disease and Pest Management

Most fresh market growers include a wide range of crops in their rotations, but they many not be using them to their best advantage. Including a diverse selection of cover crops can provide disease, pest and wee management benefits as well as provide nutrients for the subsequent crops. Atina Diffley, long time organic vegetable farmer, will help you develop beneficial rotations that include cover crops for your operation.

Workshop Resources |  Crop Rotations On Organic Farms | Managing Cover Crops Profitably

Soil Basics: Soil Building and Rotations for Vegetable Farmers

Discover how cover crops can provide the key to unlocking your soil’s potential. This workshop will cover rotation and fertility designs based on soil-building crops with the additional benefits of drought proofing you farm and reducing weed pressure and dependence on tillage.

Workshop Resources | Soil Health Card | Building Soils For Better CropsCrop Rotations On Organic FarmsManaging Cover Crops Profitably

Soil Health And Biodiversity In Practice: Harnessing Biology, Ecology, And Resiliency On The Farm

Promoting biodiversity both above and below the soil provides a wide variety of ecosystem services that enhance food growing capacity. Join organic vegetable farmer and consultant Atina Diffley for this exploration of the natural processes in the environment and how you can work with them. Listen

Workshop Resources  The Xeres Society Pollinator Conservation | Manage Insects – Ecologically

Organic Cropping Systems, Soil Health, and Drought

How you manage your soil has a significant impact on water holding capacity and soil condition during drought. plant nutrition, cropping systems, tillage, and irrigation An overview of management practices to lessen the impacts of drought for vegetable growers.

Organic Food and Farming: 101 (Designed for non-farmers)

The growth of organic agriculture has more organic farmers interacting with their local government agencies, banks, feed mills, dairy nutritionists, crop consultants, and other businesses – and they all need a basic knowledge of organic production systems. This class will provide in-depth descriptions of the diverse practices used to produce organic crops.

Crop Specific

Growing Organic Cucurbits: Cucumbers To Zucchini

Whether it’s squash, pumpkins, melons, or cucumbers, customers love cucurbits, but this high-demand family of vegetables provides some of the greatest production challenges in the organic market garden. Join organic farmer Atina Diffley of Organic Farming Works for a seed-to-sale look at the Cucurbit family, including fertility, rotation, cultural requirements and systems, seeding, transplanting, pest and disease managment, weed control, harvest and post-harvest handling.

Growing Organic Brassica: Broccoli To Kale  LISTEN

The highly-nutrition Brassica family is remarkable for containing more important agricultural crops than any other genus, and contains many of the top sellers in the produce market. Join organic farmer Atina Diffley of Organic Farming Works for a seed-to-sale look at the Brassica family, including fertility, rotation, cultural requirements and systems, seeding, transplanting, pest and disease control, weed control, harvest and post-harvest handling.

Organic Certification and Standards

Organic Certification and Standards: What and Why It’s Crucial

The organic movement has seen huge growth and change over the last four decades, from the early 1970s regional organic certification groups, each with slightly different standards, to today’s National Organic Program. Certifying your farm provides benefits beyond the market, including protection in legal challenges, and sending a clear message to the USDA. This workshop provides a brief overview of the history of organic certification and how it protects today’s ecological farmers.

Quality Of Life

Taking Care Of The “Me” in “We” – Planning For Balance and Personal Needs

Finding a way to balance farming with personal life and family can be challenging to nearly impossible. Often one or both farm partners struggles with unmet personal needs. They give the farm and family their all and have nothing left to sustain themselves—risking burnout, dysfunctional relationships, lack of fulfillment, and worse. Each of us has Personal Needs, beyond the basic needs of food and shelter, that must be met to be ourselves and at our best. For us to thrive and have healthy relationships, it is critical to meet these needs through positive activities and behaviors. When we don’t meet them through positive ways, we unconsciously find a way to meet them—often through behaviors that are ineffective or conflict with living a fulfilling life and having healthy relationships. Join this workshop for a hands-on participatory exploration of your personal needs, and plan for ways to meet them.

Communication Tools and Decision Making Systems For A Healthy Farm Partnership

(Full day workshop)

A farming business partnership can be a relationship disaster or a positive and productive experience. Farming is a demanding lifestyle; learn communication skills and systems, to balance family, farm, relationships, and self. Key components to creating a healthy farm partnership include:

  1. Having The Same Vision: For a partnership to be successful, all parties involved must agree on the same goal and direction for the farm. Set a clear agreed course for the farm that meets the needs of both partners.
  2. Meeting Personal Needs: Each person has a unique set of Personal Needs (above basic survival needs) that must be met in order to be at their best; they are critical in order to thrive. We will workshop and actively identify our personal needs, and plan for how and when to meet them.
  3. Defining Business Roles: A successful business partnership capitalizes on the strengths and skills of each partner. We will divide business roles and decision-making responsibilities according to each individuals strengths and other influencing factors.
  4. Weekly and monthly work plans.A strong team is based on a clear understanding of expectations and the work to be done. We will look at examples of work plans and discuss developing plans that meet our needs.
  5. Good communication skills are a key component of creating a healthy partnership. A strong business partnership is built on an open communicating relationship and meeting on a regular basis to share grievances, review roles, and provide constructive criticism. We will discuss and practice:
    • Listening to understand
    • Using “I” statements and advanced “I sandwiches”
    • Using Healthy Anger

Participatory Workshop

This workshop is designed for all types of farm partners, where both parties are engaged in the farm decision making and/or work activity and are committed to working on a healthy relationship. Can be attended alone but with your partner is recommended as the majority of class time is spent doing exercises specific to your operation and discussing with partners and sharing with the group. This workshop is not intended or designed to address relationships that have deteriorated into a state of opposition.

Writing Workshops

Writing About What Matters

Transformational writing inspires others to take action by awakening readers to new possibilities—they leave changed knowing that what they experienced is real. People can and will argue with your interpretation of the facts, no one can argue with the truth of your experience, making a well-told story the most effective tool for persuasion. To create a better story, the most important voice to hear is your own so you can energetically engage in what calls to you. Then you can’t help but speak up and out, the transformational story comes from deep within you and reflects what you most care about.

True Dirt: Bring Life’s Work to the Page

Whether writing for CSA newsletters, magazines, letters to the editor, your friends, or a book deep inside you burning to be written, telling your inner story and experience serves your farm, the food and farming revolution, and your community. This hands-on workshop will include writing exercises to develop your voice and story and reach your readers on a sensory and emotional level. The intellect is engaged to understand the issues–the heart must be stirred to create  behavior change in your reader. Class time will include in-class writing and participatory workshop/sharing.

Consumer Workshops

Our Spiritual Relationship With The Land That Feeds Us

Imagine. If you had a relationship with something that was absolutely ancient, and so precious, that life – including yours – could not survive without it. What would you do to protect it? How would you care for it? Growing food is a spiritual relationship with the life process. Eating is a spiritual act. Our daily food decisions affect the wellness of the land, and the life that lives upon it. Join Atina Diffley, organic farmer and author of Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works for an empowering conversation about our spiritual food relationships—with the earth, plants and animals, families and communities.

Eat, Educate, and Engage in Policy As If The Earth Matters, Because It Does: Biological Diversity, Ecosystem Services, and Organic Farming

Join organic author of Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works, Atina Diffley, for a conversation on agriculture and biological diversity that leads right to our plates and the land that feeds us. An organic vegetable farmer and activist, Atina and her husband Martin operated Gardens of Eagan from 1973 to 2008, marketing direct to food co-op groceries and their roadside stand. Consumers have tremendous power in the work of protecting land and nature and making policy change. Informed citizen input made a big difference when the Diffleys faced the threat of eminent domain by a Koch Industries owned pipeline. The Diffleys intervened as parties to the route proceeding, and created an Organic Mitigation Plan that now provides soils and certification protections for all Minnesota organic farms threatened by a public utility.

Eating As An Earth Advocate: Scientific Findings About Organic Agriculture

How our food is grown has an impact on human health, climate change, food security, biological diversity, air, and water quality. Come hear what the scientific community has discovered about the production practices used in organic agriculture and why the President’s 2010 Cancer Panel Report urges consumers to choose foods grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones.

Workshop Resources |2008-2009 President’s Cancer ReportScientific Findings About Organic Agriculture

Local and Organic: What’s It All About?

Local and Organic are two of the hottest buzzwords in food marketing today: but what’s it all about? What does organic mean and who regulates it? What’s in our local food shed and why should we care?

Workshop Resources |What Is Organic? | MOSES

Bring Along Martin Diffley, Equipment Expert!

DSC_5246-3Martin Diffley started the Gardens of Eagan, an urban-edge organic vegetable farm, on his 5th generation family land in 1973. One of the first certified organic vegetable farms in Minnesota, Martin has extensive experience in transitioning land to organic, innovative marketing, small and mid-size farm equipment, soil-based fertility, and organic weed and pest management.

Used Vegetable Equipment: Tips on Finding, Evaluating, and Buying It

Buying a solution or creating a problem? Join veteran farmer and equipment aficianado for a practical workshop on small and mid-sized used vegetable equipment. Determining your equipment needs and options includes knowing what’s available and how it fits into your growing system, along with how to find it and evaluate its condition. Also explore ownership, leasing, sharing, and custom-work options and RONI — Return On Investment — with a look at the true costs of equipment, including repairs, history, and useful life.

Weed Control On The Organic Vegetable Farm: Weed the Soil, Not the Crop

Successful weed management on an organic farm requires more than good cultivation. Organic farmer, Martin Diffley, will provide practical how-to information on systemic and biological approaches including: rotations, weed seed-bank reduction, stale beds, fertility and tilth, predation and allelopathy, living mulch, canopy and niche in relation to the agronomic principles of an organic farming system.

Weed management can be offered as two workshops, one covering biological control and systemic weed management, and the other covering mechanical; each could be a stand alone; or both areas could be covered in one workshop.

Weed-Control Equipment for Vegetable Farms

As your farm grows, mechanizing your weed control makes economic sense, but how do you choose the right equipment for the job? Join organic pioneer Martin Diffley of Organic Farming Works, as he talks weeds, the history of weed control in organic systems, equipment options and the tractor as a tool carrier. Learn what equipment tools are available, affordable and appropriate for your farm application.

Soil Basics: Soil Building and Rotations for Vegetable Farmers 

Discover how cover crops can provide the key to unlocking your soil’s potential. This workshop will cover rotation and fertility designs based on soil-building crops with the additional benefits of drought proofing you farm and reducing weed pressure and dependence on tillage.

Workshop Resources | Soil Health Card | Building Soils For Better Crops | Crop Rotations On Organic Farms | Managing Cover Crops Profitably

Your First Tractor: Primer for New Vegetable Farmers

Looking for a new or used tractor for your vegetable farming operation? We’ll discuss the history of tractors and designs specific to vegetable production. We’ll also explain how to analyze the condition of used tractors, current market prices, and the options for renting, leasing or buying a tractor.

Cover Cropping & Green Manures for the Vegetable Farm

Discover how cover crops can unlock your soil’s potential. We’ll cover rotation and fertility designs based on soil-building crops that can drought-proof your farm and reduce weed pressure and dependence on tillage. Learn about catch crops, cover crops, living mulches, and green manures, plus crop selection, timing, planting, and incorporation.