Wedge Co-op to buy organic farm

The Wedge Community Co-op, 2105 Lyndale Ave. S., plans to purchase an organic farm called Gardens of Eagan in Farmington, Minn. within the next couple years.

The co-op is the largest customer of the farm, owned by longtime organic farmers Martin and Atina Diffley. In a prepared statement, the Diffleys said they didn’t want to keep farming into their senior years and were looking for a way to protect the farm without owning it. So they asked the co-op if it would be interested in taking over.

Co-op general manager Lindy Bannister said the decision was an easy one. The Diffley’s have worked with the cooperative since the 1970s and their farm supplies the bulk of the store’s product, Bannister said. Allowing that relationship to disappear wasn’t an option.  

“We couldn’t afford to lose them as friends or as farmers,” Bannister said.

The co-op signed a two-year lease beginning Jan. 1, 2008 for the farm and plans to take ownership during the second year.  Linda Halley, former general manager of non-profit Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens in Santa Barbara, Calif., will manage the farm, which the cooperative plans to use for more than organic produce.

Bannister said it would be used as an educational tool to help people get a better handle on the practice of organic farming. Internships, tours and other learning opportunities are planned.

The middle-aged Diffleys plan to continue working on the farm until they’re ready to retire.

With more than 13,000 members, the Wedge Community Cooperative is the largest single store, consumer-owned natural food cooperative in the U.S.

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