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Turn Here Sweet Corn

Organic Farming Works

2013
Author:

Atina Diffley

Turn Here Sweet Corn

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.

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

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.

Awards

2013 Minnesota Book Award for Memoir

Turn Here Sweet Corn

Atina Diffley is an organic vegetable farmer who now educates consumers, farmers, and policymakers about organic farming through the consulting business Organic Farming Works LLC, owned by her and her husband, Martin. From 1973 through 2007, the Diffleys owned and operated Gardens of Eagan, one of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest.

Turn Here Sweet Corn

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

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

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

By offering a look inside her own experience, and often her own heart, Diffley creates a multi-faceted, powerful, and compelling memoir about trying to live organically.

ForeWord Reviews

An education on organic farming and its importance, as well as a heartfelt love letter to the land.

Kirkus Reviews

Like her own farm, this book offers an abundant crop: practical-minded readers will appreciate the how-to’s of soil building and crop rotation as well as information on the rigors of meeting FDA organic standards. Those seeking inspiration will enjoy the story of a single mother’s dogged effort to follow her bliss. All readers will enjoy the organic ethic beautifully demonstrated in the author’s close observation of and deep deference to nature. . . . a satisfying, instructive book.

Library Journal

Diffley fluently conveys the mind-boggling demands of organic farming in intimately personal and intricately factual ways. From the microbial soil that nourishes crops and the native grasses that lure pollinating bees to the ancient trees that shelter scavenger owls and the dedicated people who stay attuned to the delicate symbiotic relationships among them all, the thriving ecosystem of a family farm nurtures a world far beyond its borders.

Booklist

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.

Food Politics

Practical advice spiced with personal experiences makes the book a compelling read.

Edible Twin Cities

This is quite simply a tale of intimacy with the land, told by one of the pioneers of the modern organic movement. Along the way, it raises interesting questions about the financial viability of farming, and paints a pretty stark picture of the reality of that life. But it leaves no doubt about what it means to truly know and love and care for the land that produces our food.

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy

Atina Diffley is the neighbor we didn’t know we had! Her new book, Turn Here Sweet Corn, is heart-felt, heart-warming, heartstopping, and in the end heart-soaring! 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.

GoodFood World

Atina Diffley, a ‘rock star’ in organic farming circles, now aims to cultivate hearts and minds with her new memoir about love, loss, land and battling a pipeline.

Star Tribune

In addition to being a charming memoir of love and living off the land, Diffley's debut is a timely tale of modern farming, the growing organic movement, and the problems that arise when urban development runs up against fertile fields. Equal parts anecdote and practical organic farming guide, this book is a powerful testament to the Diffleys' passion for their work and a terrific guide to the trials and tribulations of sticking to the land, sticking to the Man, and going organic.

Publishers Weekly

Turn Here Sweet Corn is a wrenching tale of a common yet private tragedy: the way development pressures push farming families off the land, and what happens to those families during and afterward.

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Warm and lyrical, Diffley’s writing is enviably good by any standard.

Everyday Gardener

Everyone should experience this book.

The Dunn County News

A fascinating look at the hazards and challenges of raising food, from the thread of hailstones to political maneuvering to encroaching suburban development.

Red Wing Republican Eagle

Diffley’s memoir is smart, entertaining, heartbreaking, and most of all passionate.

Flyoverland

This is no organic farming and marketing textbook. It is beautiful, creative writing, filled with vivid descriptions and metaphors that seem to pour effortlessly out of this passionate author.

The Land Stewardship Letter

The best part of this book is that it’s inspiring without assuming it’s inspiring.

Redefining Eco, blog

Corn is, of course, an evocation of much more for the author and her readers. Atina Diffley has a great story to tell, and she tells it well in this lovely, powerful, evocative book.

WritersCast.com

Read Turn Here Sweet Corn for any one of the separate stories, or just because it’s the season for homegrown sweet corn. As you read you’ll long for a Diffley ear of corn to eat raw off the cob, or for a melon to eat right from your hand.

The Christian Century

A gifted writer, Diffley brings fire, passion, and poetry to her writing; her book is a wake-up call to the real state of our national food supply and why corporate farming and the application of toxic chemicals can only make it worse.

Spirituality and Health

Diffley has an engaging style that transforms her lengthy story into a surprising page-turner.

Iowa City Press-Citizen

It’s hard to imagine anyone not being moved. . . As details and incidents accumulate over several hundred pages, the story of the Diffley family begins to feel like a nonfiction epic. It’s a story of people living moral lives against the odds, and rescuing something of value from the wreckage around them.

Acres U.S.A.

This story should resonate as part of the era’s public conversation about the ties between healthy living, healthy eating, and a healthy relationship with a healthy environment.

Minnesota History

Her language is rich and delicious with many gorgeous stories.

Community Reporter

Iowa farmers thinking of going organic will appreciate this book. Iowa consumers will wish more of them would.

The Annals of Iowa

Turn Here Sweet Corn weaves an odyssey through many common trials of farming, but its strongest thread is formed of Atina’s bravery in facing each of her life’s crises. On a higher level this book is a clarion call of a movement driven inexorably forward by the “little people” on farmsteads all over.

Edible Communities

Turn Here Sweet Corn is a fun and lively read. It offers insight into a lifestyle and approach to food production that is completely original and at the same time ancient and honorable.

Wapsipinicon Almanac

The book is an absolute page turner that I found very hard to put down. It is easy to read and teaches the whys and wherefores, and even the how-tos to some degree, of organic farming and gardening without being a boring manual.

Green Living Review

Turn Here Sweet Corn

Contents


Cold, Hard Water
My Name Is Tina
It’s Not Here
The Other Has My Heart
Forward through Fire
Past in the Present
Spring’s Fault, 1985
Songbirds Nesting
Ancient Need
Rock and Bird
Health Is True Wealth
Drought of ’88
Endangered Species
Nomads
As-If-It-Never-Existed
What to Hold on To
Subsoil Is the Mineral Base
Eureka
If Soil Is Virgin
Maison Diffley
Spring Covenant, 1994
Fertile Ground
The Difference
The Real World of Fresh Produce
Living in the Relative Present
Looking to the Future
Kale versus Koch
Definitely Not Fungible
Soil versus Oil
Organic Integrity
Hail Thaws into Life
Normal Process

Postscript
Gratitude

Turn Here Sweet Corn

UMP blog - Holiday recipe spectacular: Atina Diffley's Corn Chowder

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SEE ATINA'S INTERVIEW ON KARE 11: