Blong and his wife See, who married in 1995, have been farming since the early 90’s. That's when they moved to the United States having lived in refugee camps in Thailand. Like many other Hmong farmers, they fled Laos (and before that China) due to war. Blong doesn’t speak much about it other than recognizing they have faced serious hardship. They have been able to trace their family heritage back 9 generations to China—Family and history being major themes to this family farm. “I don’t focus on the money. I focus on happiness. Family is the sunshine in the house. My kids are what motivate me.”
Blong grows both flowers and vegetables in Carnation, Wa, right in the heart of King County. They don’t have access to any water rights, so they farm “with mother nature. Life is different than on paper!” Blong farms with experience and the knowledge that their success is dependent on time management and understanding consumer demand, “It’s all about time management. Don’t wait. Do it right away!”
They spend much of their time from March-December surveying and studying fields and crops knowing that it’s just as much about the day to day as it is about the whole year…including the upcoming season! Over the years, Blong has been able to streamline some of the grueling tasks like weeding by farming in wider rows so he can fit a tiller in between rows. That said, what would take an average person a day to weed, Blong and See can accomplish within an hour.
Their primary cash crops are peonies and dahlias, both of which happen to be their favorite plants to grow. Flowers are their focus, as they takes less time than vegetables for them to grow and harvest. Because time management is key to this two person operation, they often find themselves picking only 30% of the vegetables that they grow. Time is not the only factor in this limited harvest. Customer expectation around the perfect, clean vegetable also comes into play. It’s a hard mental barrier for us consumers to break…What is perfect?
At the end of a hard day, Blong and See enjoy what they are doing, and we can tell. “I have fun out here every day!” This is a testament to what these stewards to the land and community do for all of us. Not only do they nourish the soil and our bellies, they bring their positive spirit and beautiful flowers to four Seattle farmers markets.
While they could take their flowers to wholesale dealers, they come to the markets to earn not only a living, but also to be a part of something larger than their individual business. “We are a part of a system. Each vendor makes me better.”
In the Market world, we refer to this as the Market Magic where one can FEEL the energy, SEE the collaboration and VISUALIZE the possibilities of what we create together, every week, rain or shine, at the Farmers Market. We hope to see you at the Farmers Markets, and be sure to stop and smell the flowers!
Photos and Article by Ivy Fox