“I never thought I would become a farmer,” Blong Cha confides with an easy laugh. Back in the early 1990s he was working as an engineer when he began helping his older brothers sell their produce at the market on the weekends. “This is fun,” he recalls thinking at the time. “And I make some money out of it.” So he started farming a quarter of an acre in his spare time, sharing his older brothers’ stands to sell what he grew.
After getting married in 1994, he quit his job and, with his new wife, began to farm full-time. He now cultivates over ten acres of produce and flowers on his farm in Fall City. Besides Pike Place Market, Blong’s Garden has been a vendor for over twenty years at the Lake City Farmers Market, the University District Farmers Market, and the West Seattle Farmers Market .
With dimples in his tanned cheeks and sparkles in his eyes, Blong’s smile is infectious. At fifty-five years old, he is one of the youngest of the long-time Hmong farmers at Pike Place Market, and, though his wrinkles might reveal his age, his energy is that of a man half his years. He bounds from his truck and there is spring and lightness in his step as he makes his way down the rows, inspecting the flowers and vegetables, contentment on his face.
Asked how he has kept farming for so long, he replies, “One thing for sure about farmers is that their motivation comes most from the fact that the community likes what they do. You go sell and people say, ‘Oh, it’s so beautiful! I like it!’ That’s so motivating. It makes you happy and makes you think, ‘I want to go work again!’” Blong laughs hard at himself because he knows it sounds crazy that someone would work eighteen to twenty hours and still be excited to do that again the next day.
He is clearly enthusiastic about his chosen profession, sharing candidly, “It’s so refreshing to work on the farm. There’s no stress. It’s like therapy. You come out in nature. It’s hard work, but you don’t feel it. Farming is almost twenty-four hours but you feel nothing. I think it’s fun. It is hard work, but it’s like therapy because it forces you to have concentration. When you come out here, you work and forget about your stress.” With so many hours spent in his fields doing what he calls “therapy”, it’s no wonder Blong is one of the happiest farmers one can meet at the market.