Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Asparagus Farming in the Valley

So what was it like to be a Chinese asparagus farmer in the San Fernando Valley during Jue Joe's time ? I found a fascinating book which is the parallel clan history of a fellow Chinese Asparagus farmer during Joe Joe's time :
The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant Letters, Family Business, and Reverse Migration. By Haiming Liu. Rutgers University Press, 2005
It makes for fascinating reading to give us an idea of the times and the challenges these families faced. I actually think Jue Joe is mentioned in this book but he is called "Chew".
" Sam and other Chinese asparagus farmers bought their farms during a period when Asians were not allowed to own land. California had passed the Alien Land Act in 1913 forbidding Asian immigrants from owning land or leasing it for over three years. Chinese farmers needed to bypass this racist policy with strategies such as using their native born children's names . "
Even though Chinese farmers could legally lease land to farm , often their attempts to lease were also denied. Some farmers then resorted to obtaining rights to market the crop while having some one else lease and farm the land .
"Another farmer named Chew (? Jue) , had a similar experience when his attempt to lease forty acres of land for growing potatoes was rejected . His attorney helped him obtain a contract to buy and market the farm's produce for three years. This Chew (?Jue) was still able to make a net income of 40,000 dollars and later he managed to buy one hundred acres of land in Van Nuys "
Here is a link to the book chapter on Asparagus farming :
Here is a link to another article in which Professor Liu expands on neighbor Sam Chang's farming experience . Sam Chang owned a farm right next to Jue Joe and San Tong's farm (see information in the comments below ) :


  1. Great research! In 1918 Jue Joe farmed 40acres of potatoes in Chatsworth. Earlier he farmed 20acres in Van Nuys. His surname was Chew, Jew, then Jue according to San Tong Jue, his son. Jue Joe's birthname was Song, and the surname Zhao is Mandarin for Chew, Chiu, Jew, Jue in Cantonese. So Zhao Song was Jue Joe, too. He and his attorney Oliver had trouble leasing acreage because of the Exclusion laws. Auntie Soo-Yin.

  2. Jack this is soo exciting. I'm glad you found Ancestry.com
    your gonna love it.
    I am so excited for your family, how fun to read all this great history.
    Have fun


  3. JR: In the book, "The Transnational History of a Chinese Family," by Haiming Liu, Sam Chang is the same person as "Sam Chung" referred to in an L.A. Times newspaper article dated April 1, 1944, that I have a copy of. His "second asparagus" farm was located at 8854 Hayvenhurst Ave. And he learned asparagus farming from Jue Joe and San Tong. About 3 days after San Tong's burial in 1987, your father and Auntie Joan collected your father's newspaper articles that he'd saved in regard to the Jue Joe asparagus farm, and gave to each sibling copies. The article I refer to is the: L.A. Times's "The Southland" article under the byline of "Mexican Nationals Aid Asparagus Crop Harvest." In Chinese the English surnames of Chang and Chung are the same. Thanks for sharing that wonderful book with us. Auntie Soo-Yin.

  4. Asparagus farming proved to be a better choice for Jue Joe than potato farming, which was his original crop. Potato farming leached the soil of its nutrients and Jue Joe had to lease new land every 2 years. But each time Joe leased land he ran into trouble because of the Alien Land Act of 1913. So Jue Joe switched to asparagus farming because it had a harvest life of 12 years. Auntie Soo-Yin.

  5. I asked my Dad recently whether he knew Sam Chang and he said yes. In fact he went to school with Sam's daughter's Joyce and Estelle. Dad says that San Tong told him that Sam Chang was a Chinese scholar who knew nothing about asparagus farming and he learned much about the business from the Jues. Their farm was very close by . Sam Chang was actually a learned man , schooled in China and was a police official in China before coming to the United States. His father , a prominent herbalist in Los Angeles, sent for his son to help him managed the Asparagus farm that he had bought as an investment.

  6. Here is link to an article in which Professor Haiming Liu expands on neighbor Sam Chang's experiences farming asparagus near the Jue Joe Ranch .


  7. I found out on Google Search that Sam Chang's daughter, Estelle, has passed away. But his other daughter, Joyce Koe, is still living. Auntie Soo-Yin.