Atina Diffley is an organic farmer, consultant, activist,
and author. She and her husband, Martin, operated
Gardens of Eagan in Eagan, Minnesota, 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, Post-Harvest
Handling, Packing, and Selling Produce, and trains farmers nationally on marketing, food
safety, and organic farming systems.
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 describes 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. The Diffleys were also featured in an award-winning
1991 documentary film by the same name which explored the loss of greenbelt farmland
to suburban development in the Eagan area.
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
Kathleen Merrigan served as U.S. Deputy Secretary of
Agriculture from 2009 to 2013. Before joining the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA), Merrigan spent six
years as a top aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, former chair
of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. There, she helped write the
original law that created the National Organic Program to establish organic standards and
a certification process for organic farms and processors. From 1999 to 2001, she helped
to implement the new organic rules as head of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service
(AMS), the agency which oversees the organic program.
As Deputy Secretary, Merrigan oversaw the day-to-day operations of the USDA, along with
its $149 billion budget. She played a vital role in developing the department's Know Your
Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, championed a national farm-to-school program and
funding for farmers to build hoop houses, increased crop insurance and conservation support
for organic producers, and served as a strong advocate for the organic program, organic
farmers, and local food systems.
Merrigan holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and spent eight
years as an assistant professor and director of the Agriculture, Food, and Environment graduate
program at Tufts University in Boston. She has also been engaged in agricultural policy
through positions at the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, the Texas
Department of Agriculture, and the Massachusetts State Senate.
In November 2009, Merrigan made history by becoming the first woman to chair the Ministerial
Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations. In 2010,
Time magazine named her as one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World."