So, I’m part of this amazing Facebook group: the Radical Effing Feminists(REF). Yeah, it sounds angry; that’s because we recognize there is crap to be angry about like the prevalence of sexual violence, pay inequality, and quite a bit more. At the same time REF is about creating a positive environment for learning more about ourselves/feminism/etc, supporting each other in trying to foster more equity, and really honoring those women (and men) who’ve brought us closer to equality in even more trying times.
This month is Women’s Herstory Month. Yep, I said herstory. Get over it. Some of the group members are writing about amazing women who’ve made a change in different arenas of society. I wanted to choose women who were from today and from the past, a women who was very local and some who were international, and women who made changes in not all the same arenas. For today’s post, I chose Atina Diffley.
I wanted to write about Atina, because she’s local and she has directly inspired me. I’ve had the pleasure of sitting in a class she led. Her passion about farming, about the local farming movement, and about life is truly motivational. Although, I do not want to farm on the scale that she and her partner, Martin Diffley did, I truly respect what they’ve done.
I don’t know her whole story, and I haven’t even had a chance to read her new book, “Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works” (2012). What I do know is this, she joined Martin’s family farm in the Eagan, MN area in 1985. During that time, Eagan was not what it is today. There was much more farmland. In 1989, suburban development came through and made farming impossible for the Diffley’s, and they eventually lost their farm like so many farmers to the suburbs.
Eminent Domain is the “the power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property” (thanks Wikipedia.org). This was used in this first battle for the Diffley’s and they faced it again in 2006 when those wonderful Koch brothers (insert extreme sarcasm) wanted to run a crude oil pipeline through their farm. Atina fought tooth and nail, and this battle is chronicled in “Turn Here Sweet Corn”. With the help of their lawyer, Paula Maccabee (another local female leader and amazing lawyer), citizen letters, and expert input, they were able to establish an Organic Mitigation Plan, a case study to help organic farms in protecting their farm land from energy infrastructure “upgrades”. They also were able to keep their land.
Furthermore, she helped to establish an organic farm during a time when that wasn’t as popular as it is today. Last year, I was part of the Land Stewardship Project‘s Farm beginning program, where Atina taught a few of the classes. It is the dedication of Atina and other farmers to growing organically that allows us to eat the local, healthy, and organic food that we eat today. We must not forget the markets they established, the intensive labor put in to REAL farming, and that they did it without the subsidies that the majority of land degrading agriculture receives. Furthermore Atina and others, not only focused on developing HER farm, but also the sustainable farming movement. When farmers like Atina, face a David and Goliath legal battle with extremely large entities like the Koch brothers, and win, it establishes a precedence that could help other farmers that face other Eminent Domain challenges. Currently, Cedar Summit Farm, an organic dairy around for 30+ years is facing a similar situation. Click on this change.org to help by signing their petition to the MN House Energy Policy Committee.
In 2008, Atina and Martin sold their Gardens of Eagan farm to the Wedge Co-op. She released her book, and teaches a myriad of classes helping new organic farmers be sustainable in their practices and lives.
I am forever thankful of the path that Atina and other sustainable farmers have created for us as farmers. This movement is a revolution in itself and is true homeland security (more on this later).
Thank you. I’ll be posting an update to my simplifying challenge soon!