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The Impermanence of Eden

By Scott Carlson
The Chronicle

Diffley_Turn coverMany journalists go into their line of work wanting to tell stories that will help fix the world, make something broken whole again. I have been writing about the environment, agriculture, city planning, and sprawl for much of my career—and I know that I, too, am trying to restore a lost world.

I grew up in the 1970s and 80s in Eagan, Minn., near an unusual farmer who worked a remarkable piece of land. The young Martin Diffley grew an array of vegetables on fields tucked amid grassy, protective hills and dense woods, a landscape much different from the deforested, monoculture farms so common in the region. Diffley established his Gardens of Eagan, one of the first organic farms in the Midwest, on land that had been owned by the Diffley family since 1855; pesticides and other common agricultural chemicals had never been used on it. But its edenic traits could not save it. In the late 1980s, as the Twin Cities oozed into the countryside around it, the forests were bulldozed and the hills flattened to make way for unimaginative houses in various shades of beige.

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