Atina Diffley (Eureka, Minnesota )

In 2006, Atina Diffley received a letter stating that a Koch subsidiary oil pipeline was going to cut through her organic farm, leading to no more than 12 inches of topsoil erosion. Ms. Diffley, together with her husband Martin, had just spent the past 15 years rebuilding the farm’s soil that had been previously damaged by chemicals.

The Diffleys resolved to take action to save their farm, which served over 75,000 Twin Cities natural food co-op members. The task was daunting—not only did they have to pore through binders of paperwork coated in legal jargon, but finding a lawyer to represent them against the Kochs was next to impossible.

Office after office gave Atina the same response: they had a conflict of interest, all either having worked for Koch or represented one of their subsidiaries in the past.

Atina eventually found an environmental lawyer, Paul Maccabee, who helped them file a suit to stop the pipeline from being built on their farm. With the help of Maccabee and other lawyers, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and over 4,500 individuals who wrote letters of support, they were successful.

They were even able to prevent future pipelines, and any public utility in the state of Minnesota, from destroying organic farmland. The Organic Mitigation Plan they put into effect ensured protection by requiring that anyone who intended to build a pipeline across an organic farm follow tedious procedures that would make it financially unviable.