January 14, 2014
COLUMBUS - Organic farmers in Ohio face many struggles, including the impacts of agricultural policies, urban sprawl and pollution on their land.
But one expert in the field says as stewards of soil and water, organic farmers can be powerful advocates for the environment.
Atina Diffley ran one of the Midwest’s first certified organic produce farms and led a successful legal and citizen action campaign to reroute a crude-oil pipeline to protect organic farmland in Minnesota.
She says it wouldn’t have happened without efforts to educate policy leaders about how organic farming works.
“We ended up not only accomplishing all our goals, but the judge understood organic systems well enough, and the Department of Agriculture then understood organic systems well enough that they made recommendations that supported organic farms and non-organic farms beyond what we had even asked for,” she explains.
Diffley says organic farmers have a responsibility to protect the land, and it’s crucial for them to stand together and work on policy matters that can create social change.
She adds as the link between the land and the food, organic farmers need to reach out and engage the customer as well.
Diffley says in her case, by educating her customers, more than 4,600 people wrote letters to the pipeline company, which resulted in the creation of a statewide organic mitigation plan.
Diffley points out organic farmers manage soil, water and habitat on a daily basis and understand the balance needed to keep an ecosystem thriving.
She says organic farmers can be role models and leaders for the community.
“Organic, it’s not just a way to make money or a day job,” she maintains. “We live in these relationships so it’s really crucial that we stand for them and take that information and that knowledge that we are gaining through our work beyond the property lines of our own farms.”
Diffley will speak at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) 35th annual conference, Feb. 14 and 15 in Granville.