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Organic Transition and Market Opportunities in the San Joaquin Valley

by Molly Nakahara |

Farm tour of Vang Farms, photo by Molly Nakahara

On the outskirts of Merced, California, tucked in between acres of feed corn and walnuts, is an oasis of crop diversity, a 15-acre farm growing over 30 crops for local markets. Owner–operator Latsamee “Mee” Moua shares that her business, Vang Farms, is known at the farmers’ market for having unique, often hard-to-find crops beloved by Southeast Asian communities. From okra grown for its tender, edible leaves; to jicama, the nitrogen-fixing legume grown for its crunchy tuber and towering trellises of sem beans, their pungent flowers swarming with beneficial insects; to sugar cane stalks stretching into the sky; Mee’s farm is a culinary and botanical wonderland. At 10a.m. on a recent August morning, a crowd of local farmers and service providers gathered at Vang Farms to explore organic transition and new market opportunities for organic producers in the San Joaquin Valley. Hosted by American Farmland Trust, CCOF Foundation, the USDA Transition to Organic Partnership Program, and Daily Harvest, the “farmer tailgate” event featured a tour of a farm and an organic packinghouse and a conversation with seasoned organic producers from the area. 

Annas Organic Farms, are big supporters of Sweet Valley Produce. Inspired by a love of nature, the Villanuevas have been farming organically for the past decade, and for much of that time, making the four-hour trek multiple times a week to organic wholesalers in the Bay Area. A local, organic packinghouse that could entice the organic supply chain to source from valley growers would help farms like Annas Organic Farms and Vang Farms find success long into the future. 

To learn more about the CCOF Foundation’s work, visit, or contact Education Manager Molly Nakahara at