The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association announced their keynote speakers for the annual conference recently. I read the biographies and requested Atina Diffley‘s book Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works from the library.
Diffley writes her memoir of growing into a farmer and becoming an accidental activist with the gifts of a fine story teller. Throughout her dramatic tale of finding and losing a farm and then fighting to save another, she shares personal moments of grief, joy, and insatiable desire to grow food organically. She portrays farming realistically, describing the challenges of physical labor and difficult weather while constantly reminding the reader of the same appreciation for nature I feel when working in the garden. “Every time I am in the field or the garden, there is one plant or insect, one leaf or flower, one line or shape that jumps from the rest and catches my senses with the profound beauty of its lovely self,” she writes.
Diffley weaves many useful farming tips from her Gardens of Eagen farm into her writing. She advocates that “weeds are not our enemies but our allies, nature’s system to protect, repair, and purify the soil,” and then goes on to describe how to build organic soil from conventional fields. She tells how her successful organic farm plants in succession, weeds, and markets their wares in enough detail to be useful to current and would-be organic farmers, but in a story-telling fashion that would not bore a non-farmer.
Beyond being an interesting story, Turn Here Sweet Corn is inspirational to me as a maybe farmer. Diffley describes a life that is physically and mentally challenging but incredible rewarding. She advocates for the utmost of integrity, writing “our name is on it, and quality is crucial, but it’s not just that. We enter people’s lives in the most sacred way possible. Our hands touch every vegetable that leaves this land. This food enters the eaters’ lives through their mouths and nourishes their bodies. I need to be sure that every piece of food that leaves here is good.” Watch the book trailer below to hear more about Turn Here Sweet Corn in Atina’s own words.
Registration for the 2014 OEFFA conference will open in about a month. Alex and I will present a workshop on pressure canning (more details to come) and I can’t wait to be in the audience for Atina Diffley’s keynote.