After eight airport hours traveling from Denver to Madison, WI, I asked my hostess Nancy if we could go for a walk. My friend lives on a pastoral country road in Waunakee, a rural community near Madison, surrounded by rolling hills, green vistas and farm fields. Our hike took us to the fields next to her property which were planted with a vast array of vegetables, neatly rowed and precociously sprouting from the abundant spring rains. The fields of onions, lettuce, peppers, kale and more were much bigger than my community plot but not expansively large like the corn fields across the road. I wondered if theses were plots designated for sales at local farmer’s markets. Yes, Nancy, told me, these fields are populated by industrious Hmong gardeners who grow food to supplement their incomes. Almost immediately, we were greeted by a very friendly little man named Vang who offered us onions and rhubarb. And profusely refused any attempt to give him money for the vegetables. Vang gave us a little tour of his plots and talked to me about his organic methods.
When we returned with our cameras the next day, we explored further traversing more fields, past makeshift scarecrows made from plastic bags, rows of raspberries, strawberries, beans, basil and more. I was most interested to see the garden trellises made from the branches of trimmed sumac bushes growing along the margins. And the distinctive straw hats of the Hmong gardeners working hard hoe the weeds and harvest for the famous Saturday farmer’s market at the Madison Capital.