Regionally Resilient Food Business Models: Sang Lee Farms

Sang Lee Farms
Regionally Organic Family Farm in Southold, NY
Sang Lee Farms
Sang Lee Farms

Regional Organic Farm

Diverse certified organic vegetable farm selling to green markets and CSA (community supported agriculture) in Southold, NY

Founded

Founded ~1940s Kim Poy Lee, Hugh K. Lee and father, George Kim Lee supplying New York’s Chinatown and expanding over the years to serve the East Coast markets

Funding

Family farm, privately held

Sustainable Development Goals

The company is focused particularly on Goal #2, to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030: to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture for all

Mission

Sang Lee Farms stated mission is to “provide the highest quality vegetables and exceptional service for all our customers.”

Where on the Resiliency Scale?

Sang Lee Farms has seen an increase in demand during the pandemic. Based in Southold, NY, normally a quiet community during the winter and spring months, the farm stand was inundated with city dwellers from NYC populating homes normally visited in the summer. The farm’s manager was able to quickly retool their website to allow for curbside pickup. Local farms in the larger New York metropolitan region are fairly digitally savvy, having mastered Instagram and visually rich websites to appeal to residents and farmers market customers who want to have a stronger connection to their food source. 

 

Business Model Moves

Starting venture:

Sang Lee Farms, Inc. was established in the mid 1940’s by the owner’s Uncles, John (Kim Poy Lee), Hugh K. Lee and father, George Kim Lee. Following George’s return from his Navy tour of duty during World War II, the farm began supplying New York’s Chinatown with quality Asian produce grown in Melville, Long Island then later in the 1950s to include production in Hobe Sound, Florida. 

First Business Model 

Sang Lee Farms would sell Asian produce wholesalers in Chinatown, NYC.

Expansion  

Through the 1970’s, ’80’s, and ’90’s, production and wholesale distribution expanded to Asian markets along the eastern coast from Montreal, Canada, to Miami, Florida, with many cities in between.

Second Business Model

From the 1990s through the 2000s Sang Lee Farms moved to its current location and  evolved the business model from wholesale to retail, beginning humbly with a farm stand and then slowly shifting over to provide more variety of offerings, including flowers and other types of vegetables, becoming certified organic, and then starting a CSA (community supported agriculture).

Current Model

Sang Lee Farms offering of over 100 types of organic produce are in high demand as they are one of the few local sources for Organic food. The recent shift from farm stand to offer curbside pickup enabled the farm to manage their sudden surge in demand from newly relocated city dwellers to the outskirts of the North Fork, Long Island. 

Additional reading:

Small Farms in N.Y. Are Experiencing a Surprising Boom. Here’s Why. in The New 
York Times.