Bringing Southeast Asia to the Southeastern United States

Agriculture and Human Values

March 23, 2006
Journal article on homegardens in south Florida

Immigrant farmers from Southeast Asia have brought knowledge of tropical fruit and vegetable production from their home countries to Homestead, Florida. They have developed a new style of farming, one that most closely resembles agricultural systems described as ‘‘homegardens.’’ Although biodiverse agricultural systems are generally thought to be commercially unviable, homegarden farmers successfully manage crop diversity as an economic strategy. By focusing on growing a mixture of specialty Southeast Asian herbs, fruits, and vegetables, the farmers have created their own economic niche and have shielded themselves from the competition of high-volume, single commodity producers. This paper shows that the Homestead homegardens constitute an alternative form of agriculture that is defined by their agroecological and socioeconomic attributes. It also shows that although the homegarden farms are a form of ‘‘alternative agriculture,’’ they do not operate outside of conventional, global systems of agricultural trade; rather the homegarden farms are embedded in global agriculture. The Homestead case problematizes the tendency to delineate between the global and local scales, and alternative and conventional sectors in agriculture today. This paper concludes that the emergence of the Homestead homegardens can only be understood by taking a place-based approach to studying the environment in which the homegardens are situated as well as identifying the large-scale influences on Miami-Dade County.

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