Sua, Joua Pao Yang and their daughter Xee Yang-Schell are the inspiration that led to the genesis of Tara Clark’s makeshift tulip market in N. Capitol Hill on March 25th. Tara and Xee are working on a book together that will share the stories and beauty of Pike Place Market’s Hmong flower farmers. Here is a short story Xee shared with Tara a week after the makeshift market opened.
“With the strength of her two hands and a simple hoe, Sua has willed the earth to yield her an abundance of vegetables and flowers for over sixty years, thirty of those years spent growing for Pike Place Market. A person largely unseen and unknown by millions who have passed by her corner stall. A humble woman of quiet strength and resiliency. A gentle soul who has weathered more hardships than anyone should bear in many lifetimes.
Still, she continues to smile, and her hoe keeps moving along, because farming is not a job nor even a career. Farming is life itself. Like her plants that gain nutrients from the soil, Sua’s spirit is nourished by the earth she works. Farming breathes life into her.
Like an artist who needs to create paintings, she needs to till the soil and bring forth her living masterpieces in rotating exhibits. In spring her daffodils, tulips, peonies, lupines, sweet Williams, and campanulas, to name a few, are on display. In summer, the dahlias, sunflowers, phlox, statice, lilies, gladiola, zinnias, and queen Ann’s lace show themselves in a multitude of brilliant colors and textures. In fall, her flowering kale wows customers and passersby. The winter show of dried flowers is just as spectacular. Asked which flower is her favorite, she replies, “All my flowers are my favorites.”
A woman of seventy seasons who works nearly seven days a week, fifteen to twenty hours a day during the peak of the growing season, Sua seems to defy the aging human body. Her energy and enthusiasm for planting, weeding, fertilizing, and harvesting are boundless when fed by the sight of her flourishing flowers. The joy she receives from farming is a natural drug that suppresses her constant aching back, strengthens her creaky knees, and loosens her gnarled arthritic fingers.
Sua has been fortunate because through the support of family, friends, and the Seattle community, especially Pike Place Market, she has had the opportunity to be true to herself. She has been able to be a farmer. She has been able to embrace the essence of who she is.
Sometimes the focus of her work is on how much joy she has given to the thousands of people who have loved her flowers, but she has also benefited. Everyone she has touched through her vegetables and flowers over the years has blessed her. They have nurtured her spirit with their appreciation for the fruits of her labor, and for that, she is keeping her hoe to the ground.”
Written April 2020 by Xee Yang-Schell, Sua’s daughter, Xee was born in a village in northern Laos. Her family fled the village in 1974, she lived in a Thai refugee camp for 5 years before arriving in Shoreline, WA at the age of 8. She is a graduate of Shorecrest High School and Seattle University, mother of 2 and Bothell resident.