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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Yee Farms brings Chinese vegetables and a 'sense of pride' to Boynton Beach

Bowls of Chinese vegetables

Third-generation owner Roland Yee explains how his grandparents started the farm as a way to supply bok choy, napa cabbage and other vegetables to restaurants in New York City's Chinatown.

In 1940, long before mainstream supermarkets carried bok choy and meal delivery apps made Chinese food available to anyone, anywhere, anytime, Yee Lung Kwong and his wife, Yee Dong Shee, were doing something rare.

The couple, originally from Canton, China, had immigrated to New York City and worked in the laundry business. But the smoggy metropolis aggravated Dong Shee’s asthma, and doctors advised her to move to the countryside.

The pair settled in Great Meadows, NJ, where they became self-taught farmers. Living about an hour outside of the Big Apple, they supplied napa cabbage, bok choy, daikon radishes and other native Asian vegetables to Chinatown’s restaurants and supermarkets.

Three decades later, the Yees moved their farm to Boynton Beach, Fla., where the climate allowed them to grow crops year round. Today, the 1,000-acre Yee Farms is home to 15 traditional Asian crops, including Chinese broccoli, winter melon, several varieties of bok choy and more. Yee Farms supplies vegetables to Florida’s Asian and mainstream markets, restaurants, cruise lines and theme parks.

“There’s a sense of pride,” says third-generation co-owner Roland Yee, who runs the farm with his parents, Thomas and Nancy; brother, Ethan; and sister-in-law, Amy. “I think the future of family farms is still bright in the state of Florida and across America in general.”

In a conversation with The Zest, Roland tells the story of Yee Farms and explains how the challenges of farming have changed over the years. Then he and Dalia brainstorm ways to enjoy Asian veggies.

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