Latest Edition: October 2019 | Asian American Life


♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>WELCOME TO ASIAN-AMERICAN LIFE. WE ARE CELEBRATING OUR SEVENTH SEASON. WE WANT TO THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING US AS WE COLLECTED SEVEN EMMY NOMINATIONS FOR STORIES FOCUSING ON THE ASIAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY. WE ARE AT THE NOGUCHI MUSEUM, IN QUEENS, NEW YORK. WE ARE GOING TO LOOK AT TRAIL BLAZERS, INCLUDING ISAMU NOGUCHI, WHOSE WORK REFLECTS HIS OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM. BUT FIRST, HERE IS A SNEAK PEEK OF WHAT’S AHEAD. UNITED WE STAND, JAPANESE-AMERICANS PROTEST THE SEPARATION OF FAMILIES AND CHILDREN WITH TSURU PAPER CRANES. RAYNER RAMIREZ JOURNEY THROUGH QUEENS’ LITTLE INDONESIA. KYUNG YOON REPORTS ON WHAT THE 2020 CENSUS MEANS TO ASIAN AMERICANS. FIELD OF DREAMS. MINNIE ROH TRACKS DOWN AMERICA’S ORGANIC FARMER OF THE YEAR. THIS AND MORE ON ASIAN-AMERICAN LIFE. ISAMU NOGUCHI WAS ONE OF THE GREAT ARTISTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. HE COMBINED EUROPEAN MODERNISM WITH JAPANESE TRADITIONALISM. HE’S KNOWN FOR HIS SCULPTURES AND AWARD WINNING DESIGNS, BUT DID YOU KNOW HE WAS ALSO AN OUTSPOKEN ACTIVIST? IN FEBRUARY OF 1942, PRESIDENT FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT ISSUED EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066. THOUSANDS OF JAPANESE-AMERICANS, KNOWN AS NISEIs, WERE ROUNDED UP AND INCARCERATED IN INTERNMENT CAMPS. THEY WERE SUSPECTED OF BEING DISLOYAL TO THE UNITED STATES. ONE OF THOSE NISEIs WAS ARTIST ISAMU NOGUCHI, WHO VOLUNTEERED TO ENTER THE POSTON PRISON CAMP IN ARIZONA. LIFE BEHIND BARS INSPIRED NOGUCHI TO RECORD HIS EXPERIENCES AND CREATE SCULPTURES THAT WERE EXHIBITED IN “SELF-INTERNED, 1942: NOGUCHI IN POSTON WAR RELOCATION CENTER.” HIS STORY OF ART’S TRIUMPH IN THE FACE OF SOCIAL INJUSTICE, FEAR, AND REPRESSION IS DISPLAYED THROUGH TWISTED OBJECTS AND METAL. BY THE TIME NOGUCHI LEFT PRISON, HE VOWED TO NEVER FORGET THE DARK PERIOD OF HISTORY AND TO CONTINUE CREATING “SOMETHING TO AN AWARENESS OF LIVING.” HIS LEGACY AND LIFE’S WORK OF LIVING IS SEEN THROUGH MODERN SCULPTURES, GARDENS, AND THE GALLERIES THAT DISPLAY HIS ARTISTIC BALANCE OF EARTH, NATURE, AND THE WORLD. NOGUCHI INSPIRED MANY JAPANESE AMERICANS TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST SOCIAL INJUSTICE. MANY FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS WITH A MOVEMENT CALLED TSURU, WHICH MEANS FOLDED PAPER CRANES. THE TSURU SOLIDARITY PROJECT, INCLUDES JAPANESE-AMERICANS AND THEIR DESCENDANTS WHO WERE IN DETENTION CAMPS DURING WORLD WAR II. TODAY, THEY ARE MAKING AND HANGING PAPER CRANES TO PROTEST THE DETENTION OF IMMIGRANT FAMILIES AND THEIR CHILDREN. KONRAD ADERER HAS MORE.>>MY NAME IS BECCA. MY GRANDPARENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES WERE INCARCERATED IN ARKANSAS — MY FIRST REAL CONVERSATION WITH MY GRANDMOTHER ABOUT HER INCARCERATION EXPERIENCE WAS WHEN I HAD TO DO A SCHOOL PROJECT IN 8TH GRADE. AS SOON AS I ASKED HER WHAT SHE WAS DOING WHEN SHE WAS 14 YEARS OLD, WHAT WAS HER LIFE LIKE, I REALIZED THAT ALL OF THE QUESTIONS I HAD WERE COMPLETELY WRONG. BECAUSE SHE WAS IN A CONCENTRATION CAMP. SHE WAS 14 AND AT THAT TIME, SHE WAS SEPARATED FROM HER FATHER, WHO HAD BEEN ARRESTED ON THE DAY OF PEARL HARBOR.>>WITHIN THE JAPANESE AMERICAN COMMUNITY WE HAVE MULTI-GENERATIONAL TRAUMA FROM THE INCARCERATION OF WORLD WAR II. MY MOTHER WAS INCARCERATED AS A CHILD AT MINIDOKA CONCENTRATION CAMP. WHAT WE’RE SEEING IS THAT CHILDREN ARE ONCE AGAIN BEING INCARCERATED IN THESE CAMPS. THEY’RE BEING TREATED LIKE CAGED ANIMALS. THE MORAL OUTRAGE OF OUR COMMUNITY IS BEING EXPRESSED THROUGH THIS PROJECT CALLED “TSURU FOR SOLIDARITY.”>>WHEN MY GRANDMOTHER WAS TEACHING ME TO FOLD A CRANE AROUND HER KITCHEN TABLE, SHE TALKED ABOUT HOW YOU NEEDED TO BE INTENTIONAL. EACH MOVEMENT MATTERED AND THE FINAL FOLDED CRANE WOULD BE BEAUTIFUL, RIGHT? I THINK ABOUT THAT IN THIS MOVEMENT AS WELL. WE ARE USING THIS SYMBOL OF PEACE, HOPE, AND OUR CULTURE, TO REACH OUT TO OTHER COMMUNITIES FACING INCARCERATION NOW, WHO HAVE A HISTORY OF INCARCERATION AS WELL. WE REACHED OUT TO OUR LARGER COMMUNITY TO MAKE CRANES TO SEND IT FOR OUR FIRST ACTION IN DILLEY, TEXAS.>>WE WENT TO THE SOUTH TEXAS RESIDENTIAL CENTER, ALSO KNOWN AS THE DILLEY DETENTION SITE. IT’S THE LARGEST DETENTION SITE IN THE UNITED STATES. IT’S A CONCENTRATION CAMP FOR FAMILIES. WE ASKED FOR 10,000 CRANES. WITHIN THE TWO WEEKS THAT WE HAD WE RECEIVED ABOUT 30,000 CRANES.>>WE ARE HERE TO STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH YOU.>>I THOUGHT BACK TO THAT MOMENT WHEN I FIRST IMAGINED MY GRANDMOTHER ALONE WITH HER FAMILY IN THESE CAMPS AND THAT THERE WAS NO ONE ON THE OUTSIDE. [DRUMMING]>>IT WAS SUCH A MOVING MOMENT TO BE OUT THERE, TO BE CHANTING, TO BE SINGING, TO GET A MESSAGE ACROSS TO THE PEOPLE THAT WERE IN THERE THAT SOMEONE CARES AND KNOWS THAT THIS IS WRONG. [CHANTING]>>WE MET WITH SOME SOME FAMILIES WHO HAD JUST RECENTLY BEEN RELEASED FROM DILLEY. IT WAS HEARTBREAKING TO SEE THE IMMEDIATE EFFECTS OF WHAT BEING IMPRISONED IN THAT PLACE AND BEING SEPARATED FROM YOUR FAMILY ACTUALLY DOES TO YOU.>>[SPEAKING SPANISH]>>IT WAS POWERFUL TO SHARE OUR STORIES IN A WAY THAT MIGHT GIVE HOPE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE FACING HORRENDOUS CIRCUMSTANCES. WE CAN OFFER THAT HOPE FOR THE FUTURE, THAT THE CRANES ARE MEANT TO REPRESENT.>>WE TURN TO A DRAMATIC SCENE. SURVIVORS OF THE U.S. INTERNMENT CAMPS ENGAGED IN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE OUTSIDE THE FORT SILL ARMY POST IN OKLAHOMA, WHERE THE TRUMP PLANS TO INDEFINITELY DETAIN 1400 REFUGEE CHILDREN NEXT MONTH.>>WE WERE CLEAR WE DID NOT WANT CHILDREN TO BE BROUGHT TO FORT SILL TO BE INCARCERATED THERE. WE HAD BEEN INCARCERATED THERE, NATIVE PEOPLE WERE INCARCERATED THERE. IT IS ENOUGH.>>YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO PROTEST ON FIRT SILL. YOU NEED TO GO ACROSS THE STREET AND THAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN RIGHT NOW.>>WE ARE HERE TO MAKE A STATEMENT. SOME OF US ARE PREPARED TO MAKE A STATEMENT AND BE ARRESTED.>>THEY WANT TO REMOVE US. WE’VE BEEN REMOVED TOO MANY TIMES. WE ARE NOT LEAVING.>>THE SURVIVORS DEMAND TO SPEAK AT THE GATE IN DEFENSE OF CHILDREN. THEY RISK ARREST, IT GOES VIRAL. MILLIONS OF PEOPLE SEE THIS ON TWITTER. IT GAINS NATIONAL ATTENTION. A MONTH LATER, THE LOCAL GROUPS THEN INVITE US BACK. BLACK LIVES, AIM AMERICAN INDIAN TERRITORY, AND DREAM ACTION OKLAHOMA, UNDER THE UMBRELLA OF UNITED WE DREAM WHICH IS A NETWORK FOR YOUNG PEOPLE ORGANIZING FOR IMMIGRANT RIGHTS.>>WE CAME WITH A GROUP OF BUDDHIST MONKS AND PRIESTS TO REALLY BACK THEM. IT WAS AWESOME. [LAUGHTER] THEY TURNED OUT FROM A HUGE NUMBER OF STATES, A SEA OF YOUNG, UNDOCUMENTED PEOPLE BEING COMPLETELY UNAFRAID.>>EVERY ONE OF US REPRESENT THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE THAT VOTE AND WE WILL COME BACK. [CHEERING]>>AS A RESULT OF THAT SECOND ACTION, THE GOVERNOR ANNOUNCED THAT THEY WEREN’T GOING TO BE BRINGING CHILDREN TO FORT SILL. ♪>>WE SEE PART OF OUR WORK AS TRYING TO HEAL OURSELVES AND OTHER COMMUNITIES IN THIS PROCESS. THE WORK AROUND HEALING THE EFFECTS OF SYSTEMATIC RACISM AND WHITE SUPREMACY IS FUNDAMENTAL TO THE WORK OF CREATING SOMETHING NEW.>>EVERY TIME THAT WE DO THIS IT IS LIKE AN INCREDIBLY EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE. BOTH TRAGIC, LOOKING AT THE FULL WEIGHT OF WHAT RACISM HAS MEANT FOR ALL OF OUR DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES. AND THE HOPEFULNESS OF US COMING AND FACING IT TOGETHER. ♪ [SINGING IN SPANISH] ♪>>INDONESIA IS THE WORLD’S LARGEST ARCHIPELAGO WITH MORE THAN 17,000 ISLANDS AND MORE THAN 250 MILLION PEOPLE. IT HAS THE WORLD’S LARGEST MUSLIM POPULATION AND MORE THAN 350 DIFFERENT ETHNIC GROUPS. AND INDONESIAN IMMIGRANTS IN THE U.S. ARE JUST AS DIVERSE. ♪>>THERE IS SOMETHING COOKING AT THE ST. JAMES PARISH IN ELMHURST, QUEENS AND, FEFE ANGGONO IS TO BLAME.>>EVERY ISLAND HAS A DIFFERENT KIND OF CULTURE AND LANGUAGE, AND FOOD.>>WHEN FEFE MOVED TO NEW YORK FROM INDONESIA MORE THAN 20 YEARS AGO, SHE KNEW THERE WAS ONE THING THAT COULD BRING THE DIVERSE INDONESIAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY TOGETHER.>>THEY COME HERE — BECAUSE THEY MISS INDONESIAN FOOD — TO TRY OUR FOOD AND THEY FEEL HAPPY ABOUT IT.>>SEVEN YEARS AGO SHE STARTED THE INDONESIAN FOOD BAZAAR AND IT’S BECOME AN ANTICIPATED MONTHLY EVENT SINCE.>>THE MOST IMPORTANT IS HAVING FUN. ONCE A MONTH, WE COME LIKE A FAMILY, WE HAVE A REUNION WHILE WE ARE MAKING MONEY.>>HERE, REGIONAL FOOD FROM THE BIGGEST ARCHIPELAGO IS REPRESENTED. MUSLIM, CHRISTIANS, AND BUDDHISTS COME TOGETHER UNDER ONE ROOF.>>WE COME HERE FOR THE FOOD AND TO SEE OUR FRIENDS, TO HAVE FELLOWSHIP WITH OUR FRIENDS. SOMETIMES YOU SEE FRIENDS YOU HAVEN’T SEEN FOR A LONG TIME AND YOU MEET THEM HERE. IT IS AMAZING.>>THE COMMUNITY IS GROWING MORE RAPIDLY IN THE LAST DECADE.>>KAVITHA IS A SENIOR FELLOW AT THE WORLD POLICY INSTITUTE AND AUTHOR OF “MUSLIMS OF THE METROPOLIS.”>>YOU SEE PEOPLE OF ONE ETHNIC BACKGROUND IN ONE BLOCK OR ONE BUILDING OR EVEN IN A SINGLE HOME RIGHT NEXT TO PEOPLE FROM ANOTHER COMMUNITY, RIGHT NEXT DOOR, BUT THERE WILL NOT BE SHARING OF LIFE. THE GREATEST OPPORTUNITIES FOR INTERACTION WILL BE CUISINE-ORIENTED.>>AFTER LOS ANGELES AND RIVERSIDE IN CALIFORNIA, NEW YORK HAS THE THIRD LARGEST INDONESIAN COMMUNITY IN THE UNITED STATES.>>SO, A PLACE LIKE A FOOD BAZAAR WILL OFFER AN OPPORTUNITY FOR PEOPLE FROM VERY DIFFERENT ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS BACKGROUNDS TO SET UP STALLS SIDE-BY-SIDE AND NOT ONLY PRESENT THEMSELVES PHYSICALLY AND VISIBLY IN A SHARED SPACE, BUT BE UNDERSTOOD AS PART OF THE SAME COMMUNITY.>>IT IS REALLY WORTH THE TRIP. ALL OF THE FRIENDS THERE.>>ANDI LEFT INDONESIA AFTER ANTI ETHNIC CHINESE RIOTS GRIPPED HIS COUNTRY IN THE LATE 1990s.>>IN JAKARTA, MOST OF THE STORES ARE DESTROYED. I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO LOST DUE TO THE RIOTS.>>HE LIVES IN CONNECTICUT, BUT FOUND HIS COMMUNITY AT THE FOOD BAZAAR IN QUEENS. ONCE A MONTH, HE AND HIS FAMILY DRIVE SOUTH TO SHOWCASE TRADITIONAL FOOD FROM HIS HOME ISLAND.>>AS YOU KNOW, LOVE COMES FROM THE STOMACH. TO EAT, THAT IS WHERE THE LOVE CAME AND GATHER PEOPLE TOGETHER. IT IS VERY TRUE.>>IN ASTORIA, QUEENS, ONE OF THE OLDEST INDONESIAN MASJIDS IN THE COUNTRY ALSO HAS A MONTHLY FOOD BAZAAR.>>INDONESIAN COMMUNITIES HAVE DIFFERENT STATES, CULTURES, BACKGROUNDS, LANGUAGES. HERE, WE ARE TRYING TO GET EVERYTHING TOGETHER AS ONE COMMUNITY. WE HAVE FOOD BAZAARS GOING ON HERE. EVERYONE FROM DIFFERENT ETHNICITIES, RELIGIONS ALSO COME TOGETHER.>>DEWI MULYA FOUNDED THE INDONESIAN GASTRONOMY ASSOCIATION OR IGA.>>IT IS TO PROMOTE INDONESIAN FOOD AND THE CULTURE.>>IN EUROPE AND BACK IN LATIN AMERICA AND HERE IN NEW YORK, I CAN FIND ALMOST ANYTHING WE HAVE IN INDONESIA.>>THE SENSE OF BRINGING TOGETHER A COMMUNITY IN A SMALL SPACE TO CELEBRATE CULTURAL PRIDE, IT IS NOT JUST MULTICULTURALISM OR SHALLOW SURFACE AREA STUFF. THERE IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO CREATE AND FORGE NEW COMMUNITY BONDS AND, TO CREATE A NEW COMMUNITY IN DIASPORA.>>FOR ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE, THIS IS RAYNER RAMIREZ.>>I AM KYUNG YOON AT BARUCH COLLEGE, CUNY, WHICH IS A NEW YORK RESEARCH DATA CENTER FOR THE CENSUS BUREAU. EVERY 10 YEARS, OUR NATION GETS ONE CHANCE TO COUNT EVERY RESIDENT IN THE UNITED STATES. FOR CERTAIN GROUPS, THERE ARE RISKS FOR BEING UNDERCOUNTED IN THE UPCOMING 2020 CENSUS. THE STAKES ARE HIGH FOR THE ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY. NEW YORK CITY IS HOME TO MORE THAN ONE MILLION ASIAN AMERICANS. THAT WAS THE NUMBER COUNTED NEARLY 10 YEARS AGO IN THE 2010 CENSUS. AS THE CITY AND COUNTRY GEAR UP FOR CENSUS 2020, COMMUNITY LEADERS SAY THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY ASIANS ARE OFTEN THE MOST VULNERABLE TO BEING UNDERCOUNTED.>>THEY ARE THE FASTEST GROWING COMMUNITY HERE. THEY OFTEN ARE IN NEW NEIGHBORHOODS WHERE THEY ARE LIVING IN NONSTANDARD HOUSING, THEY HAVE TREMENDOUS LINGUISTIC AND CULTURAL BARRIERS, THEY HAVE VERY LITTLE INTEREST IN BEING CIVICALLY ENGAGED. IN A LOT OF WAYS THEY ARE THE TARGET DEMOGRAPHIC WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE POTENTIAL UNDERCOUNT.>>STEVE CHOI IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK IMMIGRATION COALITION, ADVOCATING FOR IMMIGRANT RIGHTS, EDUCATION, AND CIVIC PARTICIPATION. HE SAYS DESPITE THE CHALLENGES, THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES IN THE 2020 CENSUS IF THE COMMUNITY CAN APPLY LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE CENSUS EFFORT 10 YEARS AGO IN FLUSHING, QUEENS, HOME TO THE LARGEST ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY IN NEW YORK.>>BY THE TIME REDISTRICTING WAS DRAWN BASED ON THE CENSUS COUNT, WE WERE ABLE TO CREATE SEVERAL ASIAN AMERICAN MAJORITY POLITICAL DISTRICTS, INCLUDING THE FIRST ASIAN MAJORITY CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT. THE QUEENS COUNTY DEMOCRATIC PARTY SAW THE WRITING ON THE WALL AND GRACE MENG ENDED UP RUNNING AND SHE WAS ELECTED TO BE THE FIRST EVER ASIAN AMERICAN CONGRESSWOMAN FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK.>>CENSUS DATA DICTATES THE ALLOCATION OF MORE THAN $800 BILLION PER YEAR IN FEDERAL FUNDING FOR SCHOOLS, ROADS, HOSPITALS, AND TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AND BUSINESSES USE IT TO CHOOSE WHERE TO INVEST.>>THE MAIN CHALLENGE FOR THE ASIAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY IS THAT WE HAVE GROWN SO FAST AND IT IS IMMIGRANT DRIVEN. A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED THE CENSUS.>>HOWARD DIRECTS POLICY AND RESEARCH AT THE ASIAN-AMERICAN FEDERATION, WHICH IS LEADING EFFORTS TO EQUIP AND EDUCATE ITS MEMBERS TO MAXIMIZE PARTICIPATION. THIS IS CRITICAL WHEN NEARLY 30% OF ASIAN IMMIGRANTS HAVE LIVED IN THE U.S. LESS THAN 10 YEARS, PLUS IN NEW YORK CITY, MORE THAN 60% OF ASIAN AMERICANS HAVE LIMITED ENGLISH PROFICIENCY. A CONTROVERSIAL PUSH BY THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO ADD A CITIZENSHIP QUESTION TO THE 2020 CENSUS WAS BLOCKED BY COURTS OVER THE SUMMER. STILL, IT REINFORCED MISTRUST IN IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES ABOUT HOW THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT WILL USE THE DATA. CENSUS WATCHERS SAY THE ONLY WAY TO GET ACCURATE HOUSEHOLD DATA WILL BE THROUGH WORKING WITH PEOPLE AND ORGANIZATIONS WHO HAVE THE TRUST OF THEIR COMMUNITY MEMBERS.>>OUR NUMBER ONE MESSAGE HAS BEEN TO EDUCATE FUNDERS, LOCAL AND STATE GOVERNMENT THAT YOU MUST PUT THE SMALLEST GROUPS, AT THE FRONT OF THE CENSUS OUTREACH EFFORT. IF WE DO NOT DO THAT, WE WILL MISS PEOPLE.>>THE KEY IS TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE TRUSTED VOICES IN THE COMMUNITY. THE COORDINATION IS THERE. EVERYONE IS TALKING TO ONE ANOTHER.>>WE HAVE CREATED THE NEW YORK COUNTS 2020 COALITION, WHICH BRINGS TOGETHER STAKEHOLDERS, PEOPLE REPRESENTING THE NONPROFIT COMMUNITY, BUSINESSES, LOCAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS. SO MANY DIFFERENT FOLKS WHO ARE COMING TOGETHER, REPRESENTING SO MANY DIFFERENT COMMUNITIES AND THERE IS A REAL INTEREST AND AN EAGERNESS TO ENGAGE DEEPLY.>>ANOTHER COMPLICATING FACTOR IS THAT FOR THE FIRST TIME, THE CENSUS WILL BE CONDUCTED PRIMARILY ONLINE.>>THE COMPTROLLER’S OFFICE RELEASED A REPORT LOOKING AT DIGITAL ACCESS IN NEW YORK CITY AND THEY FOUND THAT 22% OF ASIAN HOUSEHOLDS DO NOT HAVE BROADBAND INTERNET ACCESS AND THAT IS A SIGNIFICANT CHUNK OF OUR POPULATION. HOW DO WE CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE TO PARTICIPATE WHEN THE CENSUS BUREAU IS PUSHING ON DIGITAL RESPONSE? WE HAVE TO WORK WITH OUR LOCAL LIBRARIES, COMMUNITY GROUPS WHO HAVE SPACE. A LOT OF THEM HAVE COMPUTER CLASSES BECAUSE THEY DO WORKFORCE TRAINING — TO MAKE SURE THEY HAVE SECURE INTERNET CONNECTIONS. WE HAVE TO BE READY TO LET THEM KNOW THAT WHAT TO EXPECT IN MARCH WHEN THE LETTER GOES OUT TO EVERY HOUSEHOLD WITH THE INFORMATION ON HOW TO RESPOND.>>FOR THE MOST RAPIDLY GROWING ETHNIC GROUP, THE STAKES COULD NOT BE HIGHER. THE CENSUS HAS THE POTENTIAL TO GET MORE RESOURCES AND POLITICAL POWER FOR ASIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITIES, BUT ONLY IF THEIR NUMBERS ARE FULLY COUNTED.>>IN EVERY CHINATOWN ACROSS THE COUNTRY, YOU CAN FIND ASIAN VEGETABLES IN STALLS LIKE THESE, FROM — TO BOK CHOY, TO EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. IN THE ’40s and ’50s THERE WERE ONLY A HANDFUL OF FARMS GREW THESE VEGETABLES. AS DEMAND INCREASED, BIGGER FARMS SQUEEZED THEM OUT OF THE MARKET. THIS IS A STORY ABOUT HOW ONE SUCH FAMILY FARM HAD TO REINVENT ITSELF GOING FROM NEAR RUIN TO THE TOP OF ITS FIELD.>>IT MEANS GROW MORE IN PROSPERITY AND BUSINESS. THAT IS HOW THEY CHOSE THAT NAME.>>SANG LEE FARMS HAS LIVED UP TO ITS NAME. TUCKED AWAY ON THE NORTHEASTERN PRONG OF LONG ISLAND’S NORTH FORK, THE FARM HAS BEEN FEEDING THE COMMUNITY FOR THREE GENERATIONS.>>IT IS A VERY REWARDING LINE OF WORK. THERE IS NOTHING BETTER THAN TO BE ABLE TO PRODUCE YOUR OWN FOOD ORGANICALLY AND TO FEED THE COMMUNITY.>>FRED LEE IS THE SECOND GENERATION OF SANG LEE FARMS. HIS SON WORKS ALONGSIDE HIM, THE THIRD AND MOST RECENT GENERATION TO TAKE THE HELM.>>MY GRANDFATHER, WHEN HE CAME TO THIS COUNTRY, AT THE TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY, HE HAD A LAUNDROMAT IN QUEENS VILLAGE. MY DAD AND MY UNCLES WORKED IN THE LAUNDROMAT.>>BUT AFTER RETURNING FROM WORLD WAR II, FRED’S FATHER AND UNCLE DECIDED TO VENTURE INTO THE FARMING BUSINESS AFTER REALIZING THERE WAS A MARKET HUNGRY FOR ASIAN VEGETABLES.>>THERE WERE NOT A LOT OF CHINESE VEGETABLE FARMS. THERE WAS A GROWING ASIAN POPULATION IN CHINATOWN. IT SEEMED LIKE A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY TO GET INVOLVED WITH THE PRODUCTION AND TO SELL INTO NEW YORK CITY, THE CHINATOWN AREA.>>AS THE ASIAN POPULATION EXPLODED FROM MIAMI TO MONTREAL, SO DID SANG LEE FARMS.>>I HAVE FOND MEMORIES GROWING UP ON THE FARM, BEING INVOLVED IN EVERY ASPECT FROM WORKING IN THE FIELD WITH THE HARVESTING CREW, TO DRIVING THE DELIVERY TRUCKS INTO CHINATOWN.>>FRED SAYS HE HAD OTHER PLANS FOR HIS LIFE’S WORK. WHILE STUDYING BUSINESS AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY, HE RECEIVED NEWS ABOUT HIS FATHER THAT WOULD SEAL HIS FATE.>>MY FATHER BECAME SICK WITH CANCER AND HE PASSED AWAY SIX MONTHS LATER. IF MY FATHER HAD NOT BECOME ILL WITH CANCER OR PASSED AWAY, I PROBABLY WOULD NOT BE FARMING.>>AS THE ONLY SON, FRED STEPPED INTO HIS FATHER’S BOOTS. FARMING IN THE ’80s AND ’90s WAS A FAR CRY FROM HIS FATHER’S DAY. COMPETITION WAS FIERCE AND CUTTHROAT, MAKING IT DIFFICULT FOR SMALLER FARMS TO SURVIVE. SOME YEARS WERE SO LEAN, FRED SAID HE FEARED THE FARM WOULD GO UNDER. THEN, THE EUREKA MOMENT.>>WE CAME UP WITH THE IDEA TO SELL FLOWERS ON THE ROAD IN FRONT OF THE FARM. OUR FIELD HARVESTING CREW, OUR THREE KIDS AND THEIR FRIENDS — FROM THE FLOWERS, THAT BRANCHED INTO SOME OF THE WHOLESALE VEGETABLES WE WERE SELLING. SOMEONE WOULD SAY WHAT IS THIS, WHAT DO I DO WITH THIS? THE RECIPES DEVELOPED. THEN THE STIRFRY SAUCE CAME FROM THAT.>>FRED BEGAN TRANSITIONING INTO ORGANIC PRODUCE, NOT FOR BUSINESS GAIN, BUT DRIVEN BY EMOTION. LIKE MANY FARMERS, FRED RELIED ON CHEMICAL PESTICIDES FOR HIS CROPS.>>THE KIDS WOULD LOOK FOR ME AND THEY WOULD BE RUNNING ACROSS THE FIELD I SPRAYED AND IT DAWNED ON ME I AM SPRAYING THESE VEGETABLES WITH CHEMICAL PESTICIDES, I AM FEEDING IT TO THE KIDS. I THOUGHT THERE WAS A BETTER WAY.>>THEY BECAME CERTIFIED ORGANIC IN 2007. FASTFORWARD TO 2019, FRED WAS SELECTED AS THE ORGANIC FARMER OF THE YEAR BY THE NORTHEAST ORGANIC FARMING ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK.>>THERE ARE A LOT OF FARMERS IN NEW YORK STATE. WE WERE GRATEFUL AND BLESSED TO BE NAMED FARMERS OF THE YEAR FOR 2019.>>THE FARM TO TABLE MOVEMENT IS CREATING A DEMAND FOR LOCALLY SOURCED ORGANIC PRODUCE AND HAS RENEWED INTEREST IN FARMING, ESPECIALLY IN THE YOUNGER POPULATION. SANG LEE FARMS IS WELL-POSITIONED TO TAP INTO A NICHE MARKET.>>I HAVE BEEN SURPRISED BY THE NUMBER OF YOUNG PEOPLE THAT HAVE APPLIED FOR WORK AND THAT ARE WORKING WITH US NOW. EVEN THOUGH THEY COULD FIND A JOB IN NEW YORK CITY, WORKING IN A BANK AND WHATEVER, IT PALES IN COMPARISON TO BE ABLE TO TRANSPLANT AND IMPLANT AND SEE IT GROW IN A NUMBER OF WEEKS OR MONTHS.>>THE FARM HAS COME A LONG WAY FROM ITS HUMBLE BEGINNINGS AS A WHOLESALE DISTRIBUTOR TO ASIAN MARKETS. IT NOW GROWS OVER 100 TYPES OF ORGANIC PRODUCE THAT ARE SOLD DIRECTLY TO THE CONSUMER AT FARMERS MARKETS. COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE, OR CSA PROGRAMS AND ITS ON-SITE FARM STAND. IT IS A DECISION FRED DOES NOT REGRET.>>WHEN I SOLD THROUGH BROKERS, I DO NOT THINK ONCE IN 20 OR 30 YEARS ANY ONE OF THE DISTRIBUTORS EVER THANKED ME FOR SENDING A GREAT LOAD OF VEGETABLES. TO GO TO A FARMERS MARKET NOW AND HAVE SOMEONE LOOK ME STRAIGHT IN THE FACE AND SAY THANK YOU FOR DOING WHAT YOU DO, IT IS REWARDING AND KEEPS ME ENGAGED.>>THAT IS OUR SHOW FOR NOW. IF YOU WANT MORE INFORMATION, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK AND INSTAGRAM. WE WILL SEE YOU NEXT TIME. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

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