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The Diffleys Who Made a Difference

November 1, 2012

Atina Diffley ~ Photo by Bill Kelley

“The True Value of Local and Organic Food” was the topic of The Minnesota Project’s Centered on Sustainability discussion last week. Minneapolis First Lady Meghan O’Hara introduced guest speaker Atina Diffley as a fearless advocate for organic farmers and local food. But when Atina got up to tell her story, she had a different take on her experience. “I was terrified,” she said.

In 2006, Atina and her husband, Martin Diffley – owners of Gardens of Eagan, received a letter from MinnCan (oil pipeline project owned by the Minnesota Pipeline Co, operated by Koch Industries) informing them that a crude oil pipeline would be routed through their organic farm of 11 years. If the pipeline was installed, the years of soil-building to grow certified organic crops – and their livelihood, would be lost. What ensued in the following months took a lot of moxie, a groundswell  of support from the greater food co-op community, plenty of educating about the connection between microbe-rich soil and healthy food, and a lawyer willing to take on a case involving an organic farm and oil giant Koch Industries.

Seventy plus attendees listened to Atina tell her story of “Soil vs Oil” and “Kale vs Koch,” but not without a lesson on the life and composition of organic soil.  The audience asked questions about everything from advice about cover crops to sow before winter, to their challenges with big oil and non-organic farmers.

We have a general rule: never kill an insect if you don’t know what it is. These species provide many ecosystem services that benefit humans and the environment, including, but not limited to, pollination of crops and wild plants, recycling of nutrients, regulation of plant and animal populations, food for other animals, and our favorite – predation of pest species. Biological diversity is crucial to life.”
                                            – excerpt from Turn Here Sweet Corn

Thanks to the Diffley’s, there is now an Organic Mitigation Plan in place that protects certified organic land from development that threatens its organic integrity.  Atina’s story is a personal one – about influences at an early age, meeting Martin, organic farming, the Diffley’s deep connection to the land and their fight to keep them and it whole. Turn Here Sweet Corn is a highly recommended read for those interested in the relationship between people, small-scale farming, organic food and empowering people to protect precious resources.  Her message to all of us? “Eat, relate, and advocate – because the earth matters.”

The Minnesota Project wishes to thank Bachman’s Floral & Gift for hosting the event, and photographer Bill Kelley for capturing the spirit of the evening.

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