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Producing Excellence

Roland Yee

Boynton Beach, FL

Yee Farms

Products Raised or Grown: Asian vegetables and herbs

Size of Operation: 800 acres

In Business Since: 1940

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit of Florida

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1982

Sometimes growing a niche product doesn’t necessarily translate well to a small farm, as Yee Farms in Florida proves: the company manages 800 acres across five locations, raising 14 different Asian specialty crops such as bok choy, Chinese cabbage and Asian celery.

Staying competitive in the specialty crop market, especially when faced with imports that force prices down and therefore lower profits, means focusing on becoming ever more efficient. In fact, Yee Farms moved from New Jersey to Florida to extend the growing season. Third generation farmer Roland Yee, whose grandfather founded Yee Farms in 1940, says, “Our family has implemented best management practices for everything that we grow and mechanized wherever we can to reduce our labor costs.”

This often times means increased use of equipment such as tillers and cultivators and the application of improved herbicides to reduce the need for hand weeding. “We run a pretty lean ship and cut the fat wherever we can,” Roland says. “We’re confident of our efficiency, which allows us to be competitive in markets where the standards of farming may not be equivalent.

This work smarter not harder approach has served Yee Farms well; as a result has been expanding over the past 10 years with financing from Farm Credit of Florida. Looking forward, their strategy is to focus more on the quality of their produce rather than continuing to increase acreage. One way they’re doing this is by using advanced seed varieties that result in a more uniform crop, which makes harvesting – done by hand – more efficient. It also delivers a more uniform product to their customers, which include vegetable brokers who sell to restaurants and grocery stores. “They know exactly what they’re getting in the box,” says Roland. “We provide a consistent product for the customer and there is less sorting and grading in the field.” For the Yees, improving quality also means continuing their efforts towards environmental stewardship in multiple ways, including water conservation, improving the type and amount of fertilizers, and managing run-off to ensure the quality of groundwater.

In addition to his farm responsibilities, Roland is active in industry organizations including Florida Farm Bureau on a national, state and local level and the Palm Beach County Horticulture Committee. He also sits on the board of directors for United Way of Saint Lucie County and is in the current class of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute, set to graduate in August of this year. Roland’s successful business management and outstanding leadership skills earned him the title of Minority Landowner Magazine’s 2010 Farmer of the Year.

This reserved young man with laughing dark eyes is quick to say that the success of Yee Farms is a group effort. “We’re very hands on, the entire family is out in the field almost every day,” he says. “Everyone is involved in the success of Yee Farms and I wouldn’t want it any other way. We couldn’t do it without each other.”

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