In an effort to help Hmong farmers who rely on farmers markets for income in the summer, a partnership of community groups has set up a small market to help make up for those canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two stands were set up in the parking lot of Linden Cohousing on Winnebago Street on Thursday for the first of three weekly markets at the location. Mylia Vang, with the help of her mother, Kaying Yang, sold asparagus and green garlic in bundles, while Vammeej Yang and his wife, Kalue, sold rhubarb, chives and spinach.
Despite the rain, a few dozen tenants of Linden Cohousing and neighboring residences stopped by, purchasing all of the Yangs’ spinach in under an hour.
The market is part of a pilot project, spearheaded by Yimmuaj Yang in partnership with Groundswell Conservancy, Community Land Trust and Linden Cohousing, to help the farmers sell their produce. Many local farmers markets canceled in-person events to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Vang said that while she has a full-time job, it’s not always enough to cover her bills, so it’s important for her to have a place to sell what she grows.
“I don’t bring in a lot of income, so farming helps,” Vang said through Yimmuaj Yang, who translated from Hmong.
While the Dane County Farmers Market has set up an online ordering system with pickup at the Alliant Energy Center, several Hmong farmers, including the farmers at Thursday’s market, said they aren’t able to participate because of language and technology barriers.
“We were surprised and so happy” when the pilot market was announced, Vammeej Yang said.
Linden Cohousing tenants Cynthia and Jess Bachhuber came to the market with their daughters Greta, 8, and Lainey, 5. Greta bought some produce for the family, including asparagus.
The Bachhubers wore masks while at the market, with the exception Lainey, who was a few yards away playing in the rain.
“We’re really excited to have a market here and have an opportunity for them to sell, but at the same time trepidatious because there’s so much we don’t know about the virus,” Cynthia Bachhuber said.
Farming is important to the sellers at the market for more than just money, Vammeej and Kalue Yang said. Tending to the land is relaxing and keeps them physically healthy. On top of that, they said, they grow their produce following organic guidelines without harmful chemicals.
“The food is healthier than what you buy at the store,” Kalue Yang said.
Housing and community support
Linden Cohousing, 107 Sutherland Court, opened last fall, offering condos and a community model, board president Bert Zipperer said. Working with Yimmuaj Yang and the other groups to put on the market seemed to fit the group’s mission.
“One of our values is to be supportive of the community,” Zipperer said.
Sara Bringman and her partner, John Kendrick, said they plan to use the rhubarb they bought to make coffee cake for their neighbors as part of another building-wide event.
Each week before social-distancing was encouraged, many of the neighbors gathered for coffee on Friday mornings. Now, those coffee gatherings are held online through video.
Bringman and Kendrick said they would pass along pieces of coffee cake ahead of the meeting so everyone could enjoy it at the same time, even if they were only together digitally.
“One of our values is to be supportive of the community.” Bert Zipperer, Linden Cohousing board president
"One of our values is to be supportive of the community."
Bert Zipperer, Linden Cohousing board president