Organic farmer, consultant, activist and author Atina Diffley will be the featured keynote speaker at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association's (OEFFA) 35th annual conference, Affirming Our Roots, Breaking New Ground, on Saturday, February 15, in Granville, Ohio. She will also lead a preconference session about wholesale marketing for produce growers on Friday, February 14.
"We are excited to bring Atina to the conference," said Renee Hunt, OEFFA's program director and the event's lead organizer. "Her years of organic produce farming and marketing, and her experience dealing with sprawl and land ownership issues, will inspire and deliver a wealth of information."
Diffley will speak as part of the state's largest sustainable food and farm conference, an event that draws more than 1,200 attendees from across Ohio and the Midwest. In addition to Diffley, this year's conference will feature former USDA deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan as keynote speaker on Sunday, February 16; more than 100 educational workshops; two in-depth preconference workshops on Friday, February 14; a trade show; activities for children and teens; locally sourced and organic homemade meals; and Saturday evening entertainment.
Diffley and her husband, Martin, operated Gardens of Eagan in Eagan, Minn., one of the Midwest's first certified organic produce farms, and now provide consulting through their business, Organic Farming Works.
She is a co-editor of "Wholesale Success: A Farmer's Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling and Packing Produce," a publication of Familyfarmed.org, and is their lead trainer on food safety, postharvest handling and wholesale marketing issues.
Diffley's autobiographical memoir, "Turn Here Sweet Corn: Organic Farming Works," which received the Minnesota Book Award in 2013, has been described as a "master class in farming, a lesson in entrepreneurship, a love story, and a legal thriller." The book explores the Diffleys' unbreakable commitment to their land, the impacts of suburban sprawl and pipeline development in their community, and the struggles and triumphs that farmers face every day.
Diffley was named Successful Farmer of the Year in 2008 by EcoFarm and Organic Farmer of the Year in 2004 by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). She currently serves on the board for the Organic Seed Alliance and the Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture.
Her keynote address, "Farmers as Role Models and Leaders: Protecting Nature and Creating Social Change," will take place on Saturday, February 15, at 4 p.m. She will explore how farmers are the crucial link between the land and the people who take their nourishment from the land. Diffley will argue that as stewards of the soil and water, farmers can be powerful advocates for the environment. She will discuss how farmers can act as role models, educate and lead in order to protect nature and create social change.
On Saturday, February 15, at 9:30 a.m., Diffley will lead a one-hour workshop, "Engaging in Policy to Protect Organic Farms." She will describe how she led a successful legal and citizen campaign against Koch Industries to reroute a crude oil pipeline to protect organic farmland and create an Organic Mitigation Plan.
Of that experience, Diffley told The Mix, "Courage came from the responsibility to protect the land and nature. After all it has given us, it was the least we could do. Nature should have legal rights of its own, but it doesn't--to protect nature in our courts of law, we're required to show a loss to humans, so humans have to stand up and speak for it." She continued, "We accomplish so much more when we stand together. It is crucial that citizens engage in policy and politics, talk to legislators, speak up, and reclaim their power. Eat, educate and engage in policy--as if the Earth matters--because it does."
The OEFFA conference will be held at the middle and high schools in Granville. For more information about the conference, or to register, go to www.oeffa.org/conference2014
On Friday, Diffley will lead a preconference workshop, "Wholesale Marketing for Fresh Produce Growers," designed to help farmers take their business to the next level by selling to retailers, wholesalers and institutions. The workshop will cover the advantages and disadvantages of wholesale marketing; the characteristics and needs of different wholesale markets; good practices for satisfying buyers; grading, pricing and packaging products; brand-name marketing; establishing contracts; shipping options; sequential crop planning skills; food safety; and more.
The preconference workshop will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Granville Inn. Preregistration is required, and it costs $60 for members and $70 for nonmembers.