Forty years after coming to the United States as a refugee from Cambodia, her produce business thrives

Phalla Nol’s success is rooted in early lessons that hard work and smarts pay off

STATES OF FARMING: Third in a series of occasional stories looking at BIPOC farmers in New England.
By Jocelyn Ruggiero Globe correspondent, May 25, 2021

WESTFORD — It was 3 a.m. when 13-year-old Phalla Nol snuck out of her family’s bamboo and thatch shelter at the Mak Mun refugee camp, or “Old Camp,” on the Cambodian border with Thailand. After she and some of the boys from the camp slipped past the guards and into Thailand, they walked along the road in the dark. They knew there were hostile Vietnamese, Khmer Rouge, and thieves all around. They hid when necessary, taking whatever path they could until they reached their destination: a small market filled with stalls. As she moved from vendor to vendor, Nol bought cookies, cupcakes, and candy. Once she was safely back at Old Camp, however, she didn’t eat her spoils. Instead, she sold them at a higher price to other kids at the camp, using the profit on her next clandestine trip to buy food for her family and invest in more sweets to further her venture. This, Nol explains, was how she knew how to sell produce 30 years later. Phalla Nol always had an eye for business. Read Full Article.