Day 26: This author got in at the “ground level” of organic farming

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Memoir & Creative Nonfiction Finalist:

Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works by Atina DiffleyTurn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works by Atina Diffley
Published by University of Minnesota Press
Category Sponsor: Leonard, Street and Deinard

In 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 (the author owned one of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest—Gardens of Eagan). Turn Here Sweet Corn is a master class in organic farming, a lesson in entrepreneurship, a love story, and a legal thriller.

Excerpt from Turn Here Sweet Corn:

My earliest memories are in the garden. Some people say the kitchen is the hearth of their family, and ours is important, but it is between the lettuce and carrots that my mother is most free.

Our spring ritual is following Dad, our feet bare, stepping into his big prints as he steers the rototiller. Birds hop around us pulling worms. Fresh earth spills the first smells of life. He is whistling, happy in his temporary role as family yeoman. Even Mom takes her shoes off and drops her winter cloak of serious. I assume this is how the world works, how people live. Everyone grows plants to eat.

Atina Diffley
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, which she owns with 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 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

“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

“This extremely well-written memoir is nicely juxtaposed with a knowledgeable battle cry for organic farming.” — Minnesota Book Awards Judge

Click to listen as MPR speaks with Atina Diffley Interview with Tom Crann, MPR News, in June 2012.

Book Trailer:

In telling her story of coaxing good food from fertile, organic soil, Atina Diffley’s memoir 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.

In the press:

Hey, Soil Sister: Atina Diffley
by Kim Palmer, Star Tribune

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. READ MORE>>

Martin and Atina Diffley at their corn stand, circa 1980s

Martin and Atina Diffley at their corn stand, circa 1980s

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Turn Here Sweet Corn? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Memoir & Creative Nonfiction

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: