When Yia Yang and Sanger Cha arrived in the US as refugees from Laos, they had just enough resources to rent a small farm parcel near Carnation, Washington. In 1995, the Cha family opened Chue Neng Cha’s Garden in Pike Place Market to sell the flowers and vegetables grown on their farm. With the money earned from their Market stand, the Cha’s raised a family of seven children. One of their children, Vikki, works the stand today with her mother.
“Our farm is very small scale, not a big corporation,” says Vikki. “We buy the seeds, weed the land, plant and harvest our flowers and vegetables ourselves. It is really hands on.”
Like most small farmers, the Cha family have little to fall back on if hit by disaster. And disaster struck the Cha farm during the winter of 2014. “Our farm was flooded five times!” exclaims Vikki. “It ruined all our perennial flower bulbs, which should be good for four years. We basically had to start all over. It put us in a very precarious position financially.”
Leigh Newman-Ball, staff member of the Market’s Farm Team, heard about Cha’s difficulty and encouraged Vikki to apply to Pike Place Market’s Community Safety Net. The Safety Net provides emergency financial assistance for Market residents, members of the social service agencies, or of the merchant, artist, and farmer communities who have experienced extraordinary hardship and are in need of assistance to regain their stability. This fund is maintained by Pike Place Market Foundation. In 2014 the artists of Pike Place Market decided to hold an annual benefit event, Behind the Table, and proceeds from this event support the Safety Net. The Safety Net also relies on individual donations from generous donors throughout the year.
Vikki applied for help from the Safety Net and The Market Foundation responded within days with a check for $1,347 to replace the lost perennial flower bulbs. “When I received the check from The Market Foundation, I felt very blessed,” says Vikki. “This money helped us get back on our feet and ready for the next growing season. A great weight was lifted!”
Last year, The Market Foundation granted nearly $30,000 of emergency financial assistance to the Market community, including Vikki. These funds helped our Pike Place Market neighbors secure housing, pay medical bills, repair farm equipment, and much more.
“We believe in giving back, and so we donate produce to the Pike Market Food Bank and participate in the SNAP food stamp program,” says Vikki. “When you help small farmers like us, you are also helping the community.”