Newspaper article

Gardens of Eagan Farmer Cultivates a Page-Turner

Newspaper article

Gardens of Eagan Farmer Cultivates a Page-Turner

Article excerpt

Every day, thousands of people drive on' Eagan's Diffley Road, but few of them know the road is named for the Diffley family, five generations of whom lived on the acres that ran along it. Once, those acres were known as the Gardens of Eagan organic farm. If you bought produce at a food co-op in the 1970s or 80s, visited a farmer's market, or stopped at a roadside produce stand in Eagan, there's a fair chance some of the nutrients from that land are inside of you.

Atina Diffley's memoir, "Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works" (University of Minnesota Press) describes how she, a self- described "gardener" in the 1970s, married into one of the last traditional farm communities in the Twin Cities, and fed her family and thousands of others produce raised without chemicals, years before organic and local food became hot topics.

"Pesticides are designed to kill. All forms of life are affected. That includes people," she writes, and describes the careful land management that makes organic farming work, including leaving sections of the farm wild and wooded to create a complete ecosystem.

Children watched the bulldozers

The Diffleys ultimately lost the family farm to eminent domain when the school district claimed the most fertile acres for a new building site; more developers followed when relatives sold their attached sections in the mid-1980s. In a wrenching scene, the Diffley children, who have absorbed a rich family history involving every field, tree and hill on the place, watch the bulldozers destroy it.

"People tell me that scene effects them so powerfully, that it brings up their own grief," says Diffley. "It's fascinating to me that readers bring their own experiences into it. Sometimes the grief might not be related to land. But every human in our culture is suffering from a loss of disconnect with land," says Diffley.

The family tries to farm on the remaining acres, but the ecosystem has been too damaged. …

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