photo provided by Atina Diffley
Admit it—you’re waiting for sweet corn. Here it is the beginning of summer and you’ve been grilling, eating loose-leaf salads and relishing the juicy tang of summer’s first strawberries. Sure, you might try a knock-off from the gas station where those pick-up truck farmers sell you sweet corn from Florida, maybe Missouri. But if you have lived in the south metro long enough—between last year and 1973—then you know that the best-sweet-corn-ever-grown comes from the Gardens of Eagan (GOE). It’s organic, succulent and worth waiting for until the end of July.
The good news is that the book about GOE sweet corn living is now available and worth adding to your summer reading list. Turn Here Sweet Corn is a masterpiece of scientific literature; a memoir to make us all want to live out loud the way organic farmer, advocate and author Atina Diffley does. If you have crunched an ear of fresh sweet corn before ever cooking it, you must be a die-hard GOE fan. If you have not, try it. Reading Diffley’s book is equally an intense sensory sensation. Her writing is captivating and her story is both intimate and universal.
Diffley writes about her grandmother, acknowledging her maternal roots:
“We stand, faces to the sky, tasting the rain on our lips and bodies. Her eyes are closed, and she’s breathing deep with the most beautiful smile. She doesn’t say it, but I know she is talking with God, just like I do in the rain.”
Just as deftly, Diffley can explain soil systems, organic farming and comes to a realization as she takes on “soil vs. oil” that she has become the expert witness. She questions why such an intelligent species as humans would poison food and push out farms. In Turn Here Sweet Corn we learn of the legacy that Atina and her husband, Martin Diffley, have carved out of Dakota County for all the community because they had the courage to be organic farmers when “the rest of agriculture was racing the opposite direction.”
There are stories that will break your heart and stories that will have you pulsing to do the “corn dance.” You will come to realize through Diffley’s lens how integral the co-op community has been in the Twin Cities. She writes, “The food co-ops have stood behind us all the way. We’re in this together.” Diffley understands at the deepest level that community is the soil in which we root ourselves.