Southwest Journal: Reflecting on the early days of organic farming

By Drew Kerr
Southwest Journal
Diffley_Turn coverAtina Diffley says she likes to look back at her career in farming and imagine all of the food she’s helped produce sitting in a single pile.
After more than three decades working the soil at one of the Midwest’s first organic farms, it would be a fairly large collection of squash, watermelons, onions and sweet corn.
A fair amount of that food has come through the halls of Minneapolis co-ops, too.
Diffley, who helped run Gardens of Eagan with her husband Martin from 1973 until the farm was sold to The Wedge Natural Foods Co-op in 2007, recently spent 18 months plumbing her memories and writing about what it meant to deliver such a bounty.
The result is “Turn Here Sweet Corn,” which comes out in April from the University of Minnesota Press. The book is pocketed with policy, but is largely built on
Diffley’s personal experiences — a story that in many ways parallels the growth of the Twin Cities’ local food community.
And while there are moments of loss — at the hands of both nature and man — the overarching message is that organic farming has gained an audience with an appetite, particularly in the Twin Cities.
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