Growing (Up) in the City

At the Community Land Trust, a lot of the gardeners we work with are Hmong refugees, or the children of Hmong refugees, who came to Rhode Island from Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to escape the violence of that war-torn region. Here in Providence, they are preserving their farming heritage and culinary traditions by growing food in our community gardens as well as in their backyards.  Many of their plants were started from seeds they brought over with them when they immigrated; the fact that they preserved and carried these seeds shows just how important farming is to the Hmong identity and community. In planting familiar homeland vegetables and herbs like bok choy, cilantro, scallions, and hot peppers, they were able to literally put down roots in a new country.

We deeply respect these gardeners, and that’s why we were so glad to read this recent article by Pha Lo on Salon.com. Lo’s parents were Hmong refugees from Laos that practiced urban farming—including raising chickens—in Sacramento out of economic necessity, before it was cool. “Before hipsters got rooftop gardens, my poor, refugee family ate that way because we had to,” she writes. We hope you’ll enjoy reading her reflective essay about the frustrations and joys of growing up in a low-income family that grew food in the inner city. It may have set Lo apart from other kids her age at the time, but it also enabled her to stay connected to her culture.

Thanks to Renata Christen, a previous AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer at SCLT, for bringing this story to our attention via our Facebook page.

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