Food + Feelings

Nicole Yeo

Asian American Agriculture, Ditching High-Paying Tech Jobs, and Talking to Plants

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This is a long one! But it lays some good groundwork for where this podcast might go. Ex-designer turned farmer Nicole Yeo joins me to talk about urban agriculture, working in tech, capitalism and White Supremacy, Asian American complexes and the Model Minority Myth, community vs rugged individualism, the film The Matrix and its many meanings, agroecology, talking to plants, some key book recommendations, the Korean seed mafia, and the healing journey of connecting with your ancestors.

Show Notes

00:00:00 Intro

00:03:10 National Young Farmers Leadership Convergence, Randall's Island Park Alliance; the urban agriculture scene; and growing rice, raising chickens, and more in NYC, including over 180 varieties of vegetables

00:10:00 Rice varieties, High on the Hog, Carolina Gold, the slave trade, and capitalism

00:19:00 Nicole Yeo's career arc, leaving tech to farm, the role of luck, and Seattle tech

  • 00:22:30 Xanga, journalism, and storytelling
  • 00:29:00 Being courted by Microsoft and design studios
  • 00:34:00 Ideo drama
  • 00:37:20 Overachieving Asians
  • 00:45:00 Farmigo and hoarding
  • 00:47:00 Kickstarter craziness
  • 00:55:00 Reversible decisions, managing people through the pandemic, and making an impact
  • 01:07:00 Quitting Artsy, learning from plants and books, taking Cornell Small Farms classes

01:07:30 Our collective internalized White Supremacist values, farming for community, and decolonizing your mind

01:10:10 Asian American complexes, performing within the incumbent system, perfectionism and privilege, and the Model Minority Myth

01:16:30 Farm skills and knowledge as security, Parable of the Sower, community over rugged individualism

01:20:00 The Matrix as racism, capitalism, or any context; Ready Player One

01:27:00 Grieving old ideologies, buying nice things, the illusion of comfort, waking up to personal realities and truths

01:32:30 What drives Nicole to farm, early loss, sibling sequence consequences, familial relationships, first generation vs second generation, delusions of the subconscious

01:42:45 "For those that have bread, may they hope for justice for those that do not."

01:43:10 Living your values, life after tech, carbon vacuums, Snowpiercer

01:45:00 Agroecology, obtaining food with respect for and in balance with all beings in the system, the inequity of voting with your dollars

01:48:45 Trusting your gut, the gut brain connection, and Edlin's germ theory

01:51:10 The Matrix, again; humans as a virus vs. humans as stewards

01:53:30 Fantastic Fungi, Stoned Ape Theory, the wisdom of fungi, my first psychedelic experience, oneness with nature, and Home Tree from Avatar

02:04:30 There's no such thing as a death-free meal, connecting to plants, everyone was taking shrooms until the war on drugs, The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, and The Secret Life of Plants

02:16:45 Book recommendations:

  • Farmers of Forty Centuries
  • Wisdom Sits in Places
  • The Wayfinders
  • Farming While Black
  • Braiding Sweetgrass
  • One Straw Revolution
  • 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

02:25:30 The Amazon Rainforest was planted by humans

02:27:00 Critiquing Sapiens: A History of Humankind

02:29:30 Islamic vs. Christian body awareness, how we view our bodies is how we view the land, our conservationist principles stem from the view of the body as an abomination

02:31:15 "What the world needs is to be in an all-encompassing love affair with nature"

02:32:30 Nicole's drive to farm: to share her love of nature with the world

02:34:00 Can White people be indigenous?; healing through learning who your ancestors are; "What was my bloodline when it was in balanced relationship to land"

02:38:00 Finding belonging, going further back than Chinese capitalists, Crazy Rich Asians ain't it, digging deeper into your bloodline to answer the question of what to do with your life, the collective generational trauma of forgetting where we come from

02:42:00 My North Korean roots and potential farming roots, craving meaning and belonging as a second generation American

02:45:15 Culture envy

  • Chef's Table episode with Korean monk
  • Mind of a Chef season with Danny Bowien (the moment she's referring to, where the Korean monk says to Danny "You are Korean enough," is actually from Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse Season 1, Episode 4)
  • Youngmi Mayer from Feeling Asian Podcast

02:48:30 Kristyn Leach, the Korean seed mafia, Seed Stewards

02:50:45 Being Korean enough, self-hatred, growing up Asian in a predominantly White community

02:52:30 Korean Natural Farming, the East Asian origins of cannabis, intra-Asian envy, the Kpop industrial complex, Asian American identity, Chinese American identity, Chinese Supremacy

03:01:30 Cornell Small Farms Program online courses

03:08:00 Summing up what drives her

  • A desire to heal her own relationship to land and her blood and ancestry, in service of future generations so that they can have an easier time building that connection
  • The vision of a collective society that's in balance with nature
  • The joy of growing food with other people

03:10:30 What brings her joy, the altar practice of the Mapuche, morning rituals and morning promises, goal-setting vs. enjoying the process

03:15:00 Closing thoughts


When discussing bacteria, we couldn't come up with which kingdom they belong to. Bacteria are a part of Kingdom Mondera.

Asheville is located in North Carolina, not Tennessee.

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