Organic Living at the Gardens of Eagan

Atina Diffley—an innovator of organic living—surveys the aftermath when a violent hail storm hits the Gardens of Eagen.

| November 2011

  • Organic farming pioneer Anita Diffley's memoir, "Turn Here Sweet Corn," follows the rise of Gardens of Eagan, one of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest.
    Cover Courtesy University of Minnesota Press
  • The hail that fell on Gardens of Eagan bruised crops and spirits, but deep roots still remained.
    Photo By Fotolia/Ryszard Stelmacho

In Turn Here Sweet Corn (University of Minnesota Press, 2013), author and noted organic farming educator Anita Diffley has composed a memoir of full of David and Goliath struggles and punishing storms. Diffley, along with her husband, owned and managed Gardens of Eagan, one of the first certified organic produce farms in the Midwest. Battling the elements and corporate encroachers alike, the Diffleys’ determination and passion for organic living inspired a generation of like-minded farmers. In this excerpt from the introduction, Anita Duffley takes a hard look at her farm immediately after a devastating hail storm.

Awake in the Night

An explosion of light rips me out of deep sleep. Behind the flash is a deafening boom. The sky sparks again, a fused web of tearing lines. Wind jumps in, straight on from the west, driving hard rain against the house. I crank the window closed but not quickly enough—the bed and I are drenched. I hear tiny pings against the glass.

Damn. I look at the date on the clock, June 8, 2005. Not now.

Maybe if I go back to sleep, I’ll find I’m just having a nightmare. I curl into a ball at the foot of the bed and squeeze my eyes tight. If I can’t see it, maybe it isn’t true. I pinch my ears closed between my forefingers and thumbs. Maybe if I don’t hear it. But it just grows louder, harder, and faster.

I sit up and peer out the window trying to see how big it is, but it’s completely black outside, then blinding light. The sound is huge now, thumping, bouncing, and rolling off the steel roofs of the out­buildings and echoing between them. Loose metal on equipment is banging and slapping. Small branches are pelting the glass of the window and the wall of the house. I slide out of bed and find Martin standing at the open kitchen door.

Light spills out onto the deck and illuminates the hail. He takes my hand. We would have to shout to talk. The hailstones are hitting the deck and ricocheting, flat three-inch saucers with rough, serrated edges and opaque white centers. I feel a sharp burning on my leg, look down at my calf, and see a long scratch. Blood wells up along the line.

9/1/2018 4:24:19 PM

Having once been a Midwestern market farmer, I found this beautiful. I now live at the bottom of the country, and garden in a severe, hot and arid climate that sucks out soil fertility in a flash. I forgot how violent mother nature is back up north.

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