Prior to Covid19, Vikki Cha had been working part time as a farmer and part time at Sephora. She farmed alongside her parents Song Ger Cha and Yia Yang, who have been farming and selling flowers at Pike Place Market for almost 30 years. When Covid 19 shut down the markets and Vikki’s employment, she was uncertain what she and her family would do. On March 25th, she received a call asking if she had early season tulips available. She did and quickly went to work bundling 50 dozen, delivering them to Tara Clark. The relief that washed over her when Tara handed her a check for $1,000 was overwhelming as she had been overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty for many days wondering how she would afford to buy groceries for her family if they were unable to sell the flowers that were blooming in abundance in the fields without a market to sell them. Within a few days, because she wanted other Hmong farmers to experience the sense of relief that their flowers would not waste in the fields and their families would be able to generate some income to carry them through the Covid19 shutdown. She immediately got to work making calls, finding out what flowers the farmers had available and coordinating a herculean effort to safely bring their flowers to market. She worked countless hours, managing her farm and a flower distribution effort that brought over 19,000 dozen iconic Pike Place Market Hmong Farmer flowers to communities throughout the greater Seattle area.
A story about Vikki by Xee Yang-Schell written in 2020
The sun is getting low in the sky when Vikki arrives on the farm to harvest flowers for market. She is filled with anticipation to be in the fields, like a mother coming home to her children at the end of the day. She hurries to lay out her white buckets that will soon be overflowing with an array of flowers. As she gathers armfuls, she will gaze at them with appreciation. Like other Hmong women, she talks to her plants, sometimes praising them, sometimes chastising them for being disobedient off-spring. She is proud of them, yet they can also disappoint her with their poor performance.
In this southeastern corner of the fertile Snoqualmie valley, over a hundred rows of flowers paint the floor with color. This candy for the eyes includes orange calendula, multiple colors of statice, yellow sunflowers, bright yellow goldenrod, white phlox, sage green queen Ann’s lace, yellow black-eyed Susan, purple loose-strife, and elephant-sized leaves of burgundy castor bean. The showstopper: dahlias, all a rainbow of striking colors covering several acres. This piece of heaven is surrounded on all sides by green wooded hills.
“Just look at the view!” she exclaims. “We are so blessed.”
Vikki and her two brothers are the only ones of Song Ger Cha and Yia Yang’s seven children who work in their business, Chue Neng Cha’s Garden, which has been operating since 1995. She is passionate about it now; but growing up, Vikki rebelled against farming. Opting instead, to work various jobs in retail. “I was trying to be independent, do my own thing, grow up,” she says. “At that time, I wasn’t super into gardening or plants. Which is funny because now all I look at is plants, fruit trees, and I’m looking at permaculture for my house.”
Young and energetic, she is a budding farmer who is taking on more and more of the farm duties as her parents age. One of those responsibilities is cutting flowers for market. The way she sees it, though, the task is more of a perk than a chore.
“I genuinely like coming out here and just being in my own space. After being at the market where it’s crowded and you can barely walk. When you come here, it’s your own space. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. It’s serene.”
The sun begins to descend behind the western hills, lighting up the sky overhead with glorious streaks of orange and gold. The moon rises like a small light on the eastern horizon, calling masses of mosquitos from the nearby lake to converge on warm blood. Unfazed, Vikki spreads tiger balm over her face to keep them at bay as she continues harvesting. Even in this heaven, there are mosquitos; but if she can be surrounded by such majestically gorgeous flowers, that is a discomfort she is willing to endure.
Written April 2020 by Xee Yang-Schell. Xee was born in a village in northern Laos, the daughter of farmers Sua and Juoa Pao Yang. Her family fled the village in 1974, she lived in a Thai refugee camp for five years before arriving in Shoreline, WA at the age of eight. She is a graduate of Shorecrest High School and Seattle University, mother of two and Bothell resident.
She aspires to continue the effort to find new channels to the Seattle market for her family and many other Hmong farmers in the years ahead.