Tom is a Khmer immigrant from Cambodia who grew up in a farming family. When he was a young boy, the Khmer Rouge’s genocidal regime led him to flee Cambodia. He lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for 10 years before coming to the United States. Upon his arrival, he lived in a California resettlement camp where he worked during the day and attended Christian religious meetings in the evening. Eventually an extended-family member sponsored his move to North Carolina, where he bought his farm with his siblings in 1999.
Tom and Sokchea have always cultivated a small vegetable plot on their farm, with numerous crops that are staples of their Southeast Asian diet, including Ping Tung long eggplants, jujube fruits, Chinese long beans, lemongrass, waxy corn, persimmons, Thai basil, mint, watercress, lotus, specialty mini eggplants, and kaffir limes. Now, Tom and Sokchea are working with Transfarmation to expand their crop production and build out a space to cultivate specialty mushrooms.