Meet the Modern Farmer: Yong Rueb

Photograph by Audra Mulkern

Forever Yong Farm
Amado, Arizona

Yong Rueb has a ready answer to what she considers the obvious question: “Who’s crazy enough to farm the desert?” Two decades ago, the now 63-year-old and her husband, John, 62, were itching to shed their corporate jobs when they relocated from Chicago to arid Arizona. Even in early middle age, she admits, “We were too naïve to worry that it wouldn’t work.”

But not that naïve. Yong has always maintained her career as an accountant. “It makes sense for me to earn a steady paycheck,” she explains, “because there’s uncertainty in agriculture. You don’t know what kind of income you’ll have each month or year. And in the beginning, we were raising two sons.”

Between her predictable compensation and John’s sweat equity, the two battled extreme climate swings—via shade cloths, hoop houses, and drip tape irrigation systems—to establish a thriving vegetable operation, yielding okra, eggplant, and tomatoes, all Certified Naturally Grown.

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The couple’s 19 garlic varieties have proved most profitable. “You grow what pays the bills,” says the ever-pragmatic Yong with a shrug, before waxing romantic about the path she and John chose back in the 1990s: “It’s incredible to see a tiny seed produce a beautiful vegetable. Mother Nature gets the credit, but I love knowing that I helped make it happen.”

Meet the Modern Farmer: Yong Rueb