Chinese farmers continue to wage a battle for farmland in the heart of the tech industry, Silicon Valley
While the Silicon Valley of Apple and Facebook is no longer a land of blossoms and orchards, Chinese farmers like the Kuangs continue to wage a battle for farmland preservation in Santa Clara County.
Farming Silicon Valley
By Li Miao Lovett
HYPHEN – Asia America Unabridged
Issue Number 26
Li Miao Lovett is an award-winning writer who has contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED’s Perspectives and Narrative Magazine, Earth Island Journal, China Rights Forum and National Radio Project’s Making Contact.
Bob and Judy Kuang’s farm begins where a cul-de-sac ends in the tiny town of San Martin, CA. It’s about 30 miles south of San Jose and home to some of the country’s most expensive real estate. At first glance, it might not even be recognizable as a working farm.
The vegetables grown there Chinese celery (gao choy or chives) gau gei (leaves of Chinese wolfberry) and gai lan, which looks and tastes nothing like Western broccoli despite its common nickname (“Chinese broccoli”) are hidden from sight in a greenhouse. The only thing that catches the eye is a cottage with corrugated tin panels. That’s where the field hand lives.
Judy rises before 3:30 a.m. on delivery days, driving a truck loaded with over 300 boxes of vegetables to the Chinatowns of San Francisco and Oakland. While products like ginger, taro root and lychee can come from as far away as Japan and China, the fresh produce from these markets comes from Asian farmers in California, an employee at an Oakland wholesale produce market says.
Farming is in Judy’s blood. Her relatives were farmers in the fertile Pearl River Delta region of China, and almost all the Chinese growers in Silicon Valley’s farming belt can trace their roots to this region near Hong Kong. Coincidentally, this region has become central to China’s explosive economic growth in recent decades due to its booming manufacturing industry.