I spent most of my 20s on a circuitous path from the abstract world of the lab to the most tangible of pursuits: producing healthful and delicious food.
I studied the atmosphere and soil from Berkeley, California to Barrow, Alaska, but tired of documenting ways we’re destroying our planet. I wanted to actively help. So I decided to tackle environmental damage head on, and found myself dealing with what some might describe as the tail end of food production, waste management. I traveled to Southeast Asia, including Vietnam my family’s homeland, and worked on sewage and water sanitation projects for disaster relief and refugee camps. Some people had been there for months, some for decades.
A refugee camp should not be a permanent place or situation. I began to consider the long-term livelihoods of displaced peoples, including my own family who were refugees. And that’s when I realized I should return home to serve the diaspora community I’m from.
I joined a great team within a refugee resettlement agency located in my childhood neighborhood. We created school gardens, a farm incubator program, a food pantry, and the first permitted community garden in San Diego. While there, I coordinated one of the first farmers’ market food stamp match programs in the country. All these initiatives reduced financial barriers to fresh produce, but the lack of culturally relevant options in an ethnically diverse neighborhood acted as another limit to wellness and empowerment.
That’s why I farm: to provide delicious, nutritious, culturally-appropriate food using environmentally beneficial methods. It’s critical to ensuring food security and good health for everyone. I draw from my scientific knowledge, food distribution, marketing, and recycling experience, and cooperative community organizing background to create an equitable, ecological food system.
Thanks for visiting my website!
Farmer Mai in the News
CHERRY BOMBE “FOOD FOR THOUGHT: SAN DIEGO” JAN 28, 2020
YES! MAGAZINE “FLOUR POWER” NOV 19, 2019
NBC “Young Asian Americans turn to farming as a means of cultural reclamation” OCT 28, 2019
EATER, “BOK CHOY ISN’T ‘EXOTIC,’ APRIL 8, 2019
THE FOOD CHANGE, “PRESERVING BIODIVERSITY,” FEBRUARY 5, 2017
SAN DIEGO MAGAZINE, “FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED FROM SAN DIEOG’S FUTURE OF WOMEN PANEL,” DECEMBER 12, 2018
CAL AG ROOTS “DIGGING DEEP WITH MAI NGUYEN”, JUNE 19, 2018
VICE X PABST BLUE RIBBON, “AMERICA DREAMING” JUNE 14, 2018
BERKELEY FOOD INSTITUTE JUST FOOD PODCAST “SMALL FARMS AND LAND ACCESS: FARM DREAMS DEFERRED”, MAY 31, 2018