Grant Award: $6,000
One of the only rice producers in western North Carolina, Chue Lee has been providing rice to Hmong communities in western NC for a number of years. As demand has risen, her production has been limited to what can be done by hand.
As there is no small-scale rice production equipment available in the United States, Chue and Tou used their grant to purchase and import a combine harvester that will work in their small fields to offset heavy labor for harvesting by hand. The machine is allowing them to plant larger fields and expand production as needed to meet the demand of customers. Lee sells to over a dozen restaurants, has been featured in local magazines and radio programs and currently sells at seven tailgate markets in WNC.
Their goal is to show the farming community that small to medium scale rice production in the Carolinas can be a viable and profitable business, while preserving the traditional farming methods of the Hmong people.