At the beginning of the summer, Atina Diffley sent me an email and asked us to review her book, Turn Here Sweet Corn. And I am so glad that she did.
The book follows Diffley through her life as she journeys toward becoming a farmer and through the years as her farm takes off. She and her husband Martin decide that they want to farm organically to prove that it can work. And they do – they build a farm in Minnesota that produce organic vegetables and sells them at a roadside stand and at local co-ops.
The best part of this book is that it’s inspiring without assuming it’s inspiring. Turn Here, Sweet Corn inspired this whole series on food, and has really made me think about food in a way that goes beyond thinking about where it comes from. I think that Diffley’s intent in writing the book was to tell people about organic farming. But she does so much more than that. She opens up a way to talk about everything else that comes with food: the heartache of losing farmland to housing developments, the joy of experiencing the taste of organic grown vegetables, the family that is created by people who believe in the same thing, and the way that food can be the fuel for a movement.
The majority of the book is spent discussing the journey of her farm (turns out it takes 36 months to rehab the soil to rid if of all the chemicals and return to it all the nutrients needed to produce healthy organic vegetables.) and the life of her family as it is attached to the farm. But it also tells the story of how spending your life working for something you believe in can turn into activism. When Diffley’s farm is threatened by a pipeline bisecting her land, Diffley contacts a lawyer and galvanized the local organic community in her state to fight against it. And it’s powerful to read how her relationships with the local community and the shared passion for organic farming can unite to become a truly powerful force in politics.
I know this is a slightly vague review. But this book has inspired so much of my thoughts this summer, it’s hard to confine it to just this post. So if you’re interested in food, or the slow food movement, read Atina Diffley’s Turn Here Sweet Corn and tell us what you think about it!