Thursday, 8 January 2009
Harbhajan Singh Samra, came to dominate okra (Bhindi vegetable) farming in record time he is known as the Okra King of America. He arrived in California with an M.A. in economics in 1985 and began supplying produce to Indian restaurants and stores in the days when tinda, methi and moolee were hard to come by. He sold produce out of the back of his pickup truck. Later he opened a stall in the downtown Los Angeles 7th Street produce market. "You have to find your own niche. It's hard in the beginning to start from scratch, but once you create something, you have the confidence," he says. After 10 years of building his business, the next step was growing his own produce. His first okra crop, planted in 1994, failed. There were serious setbacks. Debts caused him to lose his farm, but he recovered. He bought several hundred acres near Indio in Southern California. Now Samra Produce & Farms, which farms about 120 hectares, has customers for Indian vegetables throughout the United States, Canada and Britain. According to a 2001 New York Times report, Samra's annual turnover exceeds $10 million, although he declines to be specific. He credits the American system for helping him succeed. "If you are determined, you can do anything in the world. But in some places in the world it is rough, and in others it is smooth. In America you can do things smoothly," he says. "But you have to work for it."