|Stewards of the Land
Fresno County's Southeast Asian farmers are out to battle bad air. They've
learned than one of the techniques they brought from their homeland only
adds to the Valley's air pollution problem. The primitive practice is
called "slash and burn." It's a way to destroy the residue left
from leafy crops after they are harvested. Now they're throwing out the
old method to bring in the new to comply with new agricultural burning
"We have no choice. We live here in this country. We're part of
this country. We're part of this world. We have to make sure this world
is clean," said farmer Tzexa Cherta Lee. He is the chair of a group
called Southeast Asian Farmers for Clean Air. The organization's mission
is to acquire machines that members can use to shred, rather than burn
their prunings. What a difference that machine is making on Lee's farm,
including saving time.
Not only are these farmers able to work faster and cut air pollution
to shreds, they're returning nutrient-laden residue back into the soil.
But a shredder like this isn't cheap and these farmers aren't rich. So
soil conservationist and fellow farmer Sam Vang helped the group secure
a grant to buy them "It's really great working with this group in
California. They are so willing to learn," he said. And Vang is more
than willing to teach. Radio farm reports are now broadcast throughout
the Central Valley in Hmong and Lao. Through his broadcast Vang gives
listeners a variety of conservation tips.
Fresno County is the center of an Asian produce revolution. Immigrant
Laotian farmers-refugees from the CIA's "secret war" against
the communists in the 1970s are behind it. In community gardens they grow
produce for their own families, as well as for some grocery stores and
restaurants. So Southeast Asian farmers are not only introducing new produce
for all of us to enjoy, they're doing their part to create a better environment.