Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 41–59 | Cite as

Bringing Southeast Asia to the Southeast United States: New forms of alternative agriculture in Homestead, Florida

  • Valerie Imbruce


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.


Agricultural diversification Agroecology Alternative agriculture Economic botany Ethnic markets Florida Homegardens Small farms Southeast Asian immigrants 


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I would like to thank Andrew Roberts for his assistance in the first round of data collection for this project. It was his enthusiasm about Southeast Asian herbs that helped lead us to the homegardens in Homestead. He also helped with the identification of many herbs, as did Hieu Nguyen with the Vietnamese plants and Ant Ariya with the Thai names. This project would not have been possible without the academic guidance of Christine Padoch and Charles Peters, who contributed to the methodologies on inventorying plants and participatory mapping. Financial support for the preliminary research came from New York Botanical Garden; subsequent financial support has come from the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Award #425734. Finally, I would like to thank all of the farmers, distributors, and agricultural professionals who were very generous with their time and knowledge and patient with my questions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.New York Botanical Garden200th St. and Kazimiroff Blvd.BronxUSA
  2. 2.The New York Botanical GardenBronxUSA

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