June 2011

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live Live in the Moment with Mee Xiong Wake in the wee hours and head to the market with a local farmer Amid the early morning bustle of the Dane County Farmers’ Market, Mee Xiong spreads out a bounty of ripe strawberries, fresh spinach and other colorful goods un- der the banner of Yang’s Fresh Produce. As the sun peaks out from around the Capitol dome, Xiong takes a moment to soak in the “paradise” that surrounds her. It was 1986 when the mother of eight and her husband, Shoua Tong Yang, uprooted their family to flee Laos, a country reeling from war. Under the cover of nightfall, the family boarded a raft to Thailand, be- fore eventually building a new life here in Wisconsin. While Xiong’s English isn’t strong, she uses the gardening know-how she learned in Laos to support her family and give her- self peace of mind. “Before I gardened, I was very depressed and traumatized over what I had experienced during the war. Gardening brings me inner peace,” she explains. Affectionately referred to as “grand- ma” in the Madison Hmong community, Xiong, 61, has been a familiar face at the Farmers’ Market since 1993, likening each Saturday to a happy family reunion full of interactions with friends, vendors and new customers. “It’s fulfilling when people ask me questions and compliment me and my produce,” she says. Xiong takes comfort in knowing that despite the ruthless mosquitoes and blis- tering sun that accompanies her job, her dedication to farming has taught her chil- dren a different definition of success. “My only dream for America was to be a role model for my kids and work hard. And I’m living my dream.” —Kailey Bender “ ” My only dream for America was to be a role model for my kids and work hard. June 2011 11 Photo by David King

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