Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works

( 7 )

Overview

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 ...

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Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

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

"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

"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

Publishers Weekly
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. Diffley met her husband Martin when she visited the roadside vegetable stand at his farm, Gardens of Eagan in Minnesota, which had been in his family for five generations. For years, the couple grew organic crops and sold them to food co-ops, until suburban developers encroached upon their land. They soon became "nomadic farmers," working fields around town while they searched for a new plot on which to settle. Once they found a new home for Gardens of Eagan, business thrived, but when a letter arrives from notorious Koch Industries explaining their intentions to build a crude oil pipeline through the farm, the Diffleys are more determined than ever to save their livelihood. What ensued was a remarkable legal battle, whose outcome prompted the Diffleys to start Organic Farming Works LLC, an agricultural consulting business. 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. Color & b/w photos. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816677726
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2013
  • Series: Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Series
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 528,510
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Table of Contents

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

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 19, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    IF YOU EAT, READ THIS BOOK!!!

    This book started like a book about a simple farming woman who loves the land. After one bad relationship, she finds a man with similar feelings who already has ties to the land, organic farming, and a whole supportive community. Together they endure all sorts of hardships from the weather to land owning problems, but thier strong ties to to community keep it all together. Then, just when they seem to have it made--after 30 years of organic farming--enter a huge corporation to really screw things up. I'm a sap for animal stories, but I've never cried over soil and vegetable farming before now. Great story by a very intelligent and tough woman. I just bought 3 more copies of the book, which I plan to give to friends and neighbors. After reading this I will make a real effort to buy and eat organic from now on. I had no idea what was involved in organic farming. What a ride this book is!!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 6, 2012

    Glowing, Empowering, Entertaining- Reading list for life.

    In this powerful page-turner Atina Diffley had me mesmerized as she told her story, from her child hood in rural Wisconsin to her career as an Organic Produce Farmer close to the Twin Cities. Gathering steam through the pages is the thrum of our archetypal relationship with land and agriculture. By connecting us to our forgotten cycles, her story brought me closer to the source where life begins and ends: soil. As she invited me into her stream of consciousness I was astounded and inspired by her self-empowerment. An unstoppable force, she took me though her journey to stand up for her emotional rights, her growing passion for farming and hits an unbelievable climax when she takes the Koch Brothers to court because they threatened to lay a crude oil pipeline through her organic vegetable farm. Her historical case had the support of over 4,500 people who sent letters to the presiding judge extolling the indispensability of her farm. As she fights the pipeline she gives valuable insider information about the Organic farming, selling and consuming network of the Twin Cities and surrounding area. From start to finish this book is an invaluable resource and truly a tale of empowerment for females, farmers, and eaters everywhere.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 7, 2014

    I am so glad a friend suggested I read "Turn Here Sweet Cor

    I am so glad a friend suggested I read "Turn Here Sweet Corn." An organic farmer, she beamed about this farming memoir, and I now understand why. Diffley writes and feels life beautifully. She knows how to read soil. She can literally sit in a field with her hands in the dirt and know what that dirt needs. Dirt aside, there's plenty of intrigue, heartache, growth and conundrums in this excellent memoir. The Koch brothers picked on the wrong organic farm to cross with their proposed pipeline. 

    I've long wondered what life would be like as a farmer. Diffley gives that and so much more. I loved the book and recommend it to friends whether they adore dirt or not.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2013

    Heart warming Page Turner

    I loved this book! It made me laugh, it made me cry, I am not a sap, but this book really touched my heart and I learned so much from it. I, too, am going to buy this book for friends and family. It is hard to describe - love story , thriller , memoir, inspirational. You need to read it!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 26, 2013

    I expected to learn about organic farming. I did not expect such

    I expected to learn about organic farming. I did not expect such beautiful writing and insight into the meaning
    of home, work, community, and land. I also did not expect to be inspired. A very important read, would be super for discussion..



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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I'm not usually a fan of farming or gardening memoirs, but this

    I'm not usually a fan of farming or gardening memoirs, but this book caught my eye with it's unusual title. I could not put it down. I would have never imagined how much thought, work, and knowledge and trials go into organic farming. Atina is someone you would want to get to know. This isnt a memoir about farming, it is a memoir about love of the land, nature and people. I actually cried when I read parts of this book. It will make you think twice the next time you buy food.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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