Farmers Market and Historic Immigration in Missoula, Montana

By: Thong Lor

Farmers Market

Early morning on Saturday, October 22, 2016 I had a chance to see the Farmers Market which was just 5 minutes’ walk from Comfort Inn in Missoula. It usually opens on Saturday every week during May-October. People don’t buy and sell in this area from November-April due to the heavy snows.

While walking around the market and I found many kinds of crop put on each of farmers own booth. This is my first time to see such wonderful products and I have never seen some of them before such as biggest yellow pumpkin I have seen ever, several types of vegetables, and different kinds of fruit, etc. One thing I was very interested in was those products were produced without chemical and people like to eat those fresh food a lot which becoming one of the place people like to shop. The market is recognized by the community as a special and organic product market for over 20 years. Beside of the products, I had a chance to meet with some of the farmers (seller) and we started a few conversations. Fortunately, I greeted with a Hmong farmer, Char Moua who was born in Laos 1972 and left for the US in 1979 after Vietnam War. Char was happy to share his story about how his journey to the US and when he first arrived in the US.

How Farmers Market started:

Char and his family used to live in northern part of Laos and because of the Vietnam War, they decided to take refuge to Thailand and spent their lives there for 3 years before entering to the US as well as many other Hmong refugees. In the US, Char firstly started going school and now he works for a company and also farms. There are over 20 families and approximately 100 Hmong people who currently living in Montana. At first in 1975-1980s many Hmong refugees just emigrated from Laos, the people did not be able to find job due to the limit of language and education. They did not speak English at all and most of them did not have school degrees. To help support those people in hard time, the US government and other sponsors including churches supported them in agricultural activities especially growing vegetables. This initiative becoming one of the main job for people to have enough food and for sale at the market to make income. Later on when people grew more things for sale, the more growing the more selling. “We are here in Montana just working as farmers ourselves and bringing those crops for sale in this market just as other people do in Laos which I could imagine. I actually miss by old house, family, friends and everything that I used to spend my life in Laos back then when we lived in Laos. But today, we are living in a new world and we are proud of our lives that our children earned their degrees and found jobs which I feel that our lives here are much better if compared to the life before”.

The Mr. Tuyen Pham and Mrs. Shu Shu’s journey to the US

In the evening, YSEALI fellow’s team were invited to this family’s home for dinner. As an Asian food, Tuyen and Shu had a lot of experience in cooking different styles of Asian food. We, enjoyed the food and everyone was saying I am feeling full of having this kind of food because we still don’t really get familiar with the food here.

After having dinner, Tuyen and Shu shared a long story of their journey since they lived in Laos and worked there for several years and got a chance to come to the US as immigrants. In overall, what we learned from them was the passion which they had committed with their life. They kept dealing with the challenge and never give up until their life is now successful. One of the great things that they highlighted was to be educated and get to know, understand and follow with the society wherever you are in. They mentioned about their 3 sons who are now educated and have jobs in their own.

What I would say is this family is always never give up. They fight for victory and they always finds they own way by pushing themselves to reach their goal. This family could be an example for anyone who would like to achieve his/her goal, the only one way is always keep it up and even when you fall down you try and try to get up and walk again in the next step.

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