Wong Family History
From China To Arizona
The first members of the Wong family arrived from China in the early 1900s. Wong Yan came to work on the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Grocery stores operated by Chinese families prospered across Tucson and could be found in every neighborhood.
By the time the railroad was complete, Wong Yan and his wife Moy Youk had found Tucson’s hot, dry desert to their liking and decided to stay. They started a grocery store in downtown Tucson at the southeast corner of Stone Avenue and 5th Street and raised a family.
Wong Yan and Moy Youk’s oldest son, Bing Kun Wong, eventually expanded the grocery business to the Marana area north of Tucson, and the Tohono O’odham reservation south of Tucson, which had no grocery stores. He started making regular food deliveries to these areas, met local farmers and became intrigued with the idea of farming.
Bing Kun Wong married Eng Lan Ying and they had seven children, Ralph Sr, Frances, Helen, Margaret, Bing Jr, David (not pictured), and Ron (not pictured).
Pima cotton production was of special interest to Bing. There was a substantial market for this cotton, and with a farm that operated efficiently, there was potential for profit. Using profits from the grocery business, the family purchased a section of land from the Aguirre family.
Bing Kun Wong, with the help of Tohono O'odham workers, cleared the land and planted a crop in late May 1939 after most of the local cotton farmers had already planted.
When the United States entered World War II in 1941, the market for Pima cotton changed overnight. Traditional export markets were cut off because cotton was needed at home for airplane wing covers, tires, parachutes, and other industrial purposes. The Federal government deemed cotton a strategically important commodity for the war efforts.
Since most of the other farmers in the area had already harvested and sold their cotton, the Wong crop sold at a much higher price than usual. This financial windfall gave the Wong Family the ability to buy other farms in the area as land came up for sale.
The family farm continued to expand and in 1965, was incorporated as BKW Farms. Most recently, in 2013, BKW began its transition to the third generation of family leadership.
Today the farm grows a variety of organic and conventional crops, including heritage and modern grains, cotton, alfalfa, and corn on 4,500 acres of farm land irrigated by a renewable supply of water from the Central Arizona Project (Colorado River).
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