ROOTED IN THE VALLEY: The Lee family fled Laos and made a life, and a successful farm, in the San Joaquin Valley

July 14, 2023
Jesse Vad, SJV Water
by Jesse Vad, SJV Water
The Lee family fled Laos and made a successful farm in Del Rey, southeast of Fresno. SCREEN GRAB
Jesse Vad, SJV Water
Jesse Vad, SJV Water

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Paul Lee is a second-generation Hmong farmer in Fresno County working to keep his parents’ legacy alive.

The Lees were part of a large migration of Hmong families who fled Laos after the United States pulled out of Vietnam. They started off as refugees just trying to survive and found success in the fertile soil of the San Joaquin Valley.

Paul Lee is determined to keep the farm going, even as the availability of water – a basic necessity for his crops – is increasingly difficult as he’s been hit by repeated droughts and regulatory restrictions.

* This is the fourth in SJV Water’s series of videos called “Rooted in the Valley,” featuring small family farmers who continue to work the land in spite of all the challenges they face – especially water.

Thank you to SJV Water donors and the James B. McClatchy Foundation for supporting our work.

See previous videos here:

WILL SCOTT – He’s working to instill the love and mission of farming in young Black people.

LISET GARCIA – An injury brought her back to Reedley where farming helped her heal.

HARRY BRAR – From India to Selma, farming is a way of life.

Jesse Vad, SJV Water

SJV Water is an independent, nonprofit news site dedicated to covering water in the San Joaquin Valley. Get inside access to SJV Water by becoming a member.


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