Meet the Modern Farmers: Koa Lee

Born a nomadic farmer in Laos, Koa Lee now grows flowers and vegetables on a 2-acre farm in Washington.

She immigrated to the United States in January of 1989 and is now the proprietor of a 2-acre farm in Fall City, Washington. Lee works the land with her cousin and cousin’s husband.

Half her farm is dedicated to growing vegetables – everything from golden beets and Russian kale to summer squash and Chinese spinach – while the other half is dedicated to growing flowers for local markets. She sells at farmers markets around the Seattle area, such as Pike Place Market, the Fremont Sunday Market and the Redmond Saturday Market on the other side of Lake Washington.

‘I never used any chemicals or pesticides.’

Lee prefers growing vegetables to flowers. “They just sell a lot better,” she laughs.

Lee was also one of the first Hmong women to get organic certification in Washington state. “It wasn’t hard,” she says. “Where I first started working in the United States, I never used any chemicals or pesticides.”

In addition to her cousins, Lee has a large family. Very large, in fact: When asked how many grandchildren she has, Lee pauses. “Probably… like 10?” she laughs. “Maybe 20?” But even though she’s been farming for four decades, she’s still not ready to retire. She doesn’t even play favorites with the variety of job tasks. “I like all of it,” she says. “It’s what I’ve done all my life.”

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