One of the perks of a farmers market is knowing the products you buy are local — but the people who sell them sometimes aren’t. Several vendors at the Cameron Park Farmers Market chose to settle in our region, and that choice adds another dimension to their connection to the place they now call home.
Echo Valley Farm
Echo Valley Farm (EVF) in rural Ontario, Wis., is home to a productive heirloom apple orchard, a small flock of sheep, and a menagerie of people who find sustenance and purpose living in harmony with each other and the earth. Dena Eakles, founder of EVF, extends a welcome to people who visit a day or stay and work for months or years at the farm. The farm has innumerable natural resources, and the people who gather there share ideas to help the farm and the people it touches prosper. Peaceable respect for each other and for the resources of the farm underlies the daily decisions involved in operating the farm.
Dena believes in making conscious decisions to promote peace and to live in harmony with people and the earth — so much so that she left her career as an acupuncturist in Chicago and a student of indigenous healing to live on the land. At Echo Valley Farm, there is a bountiful harvest to be taken from the orchard, the native plants and the gardens, all sustainably and conscientiously maintained. EVF is an active classroom from which core values and confidence in them are applied by individuals in their lives and noticed in our world.
From Echo Valley’s commercial kitchen, you can enjoy breads and rolls — plus apple pies, apple butter and apple cider (from those forty heirloom varieties of apple trees). You will find a variety of herbal teas from their herbal garden and their open prairies, including tulsi (holy basil), Korean mint, nettle and other blends; and salves made with medicinal plants, olive oil and beeswax. In the works are felted insoles made from sheep’s wool fiber and tree seedling sales.
Echo Valley Farm products are at the Friday Cameron Park Market, and at the Downtown Dells Market on Sundays. EVF will host a Midwest Women’s Herbal Workshop Aug. 13-14 and bring their products to the Reedsburg Fermentation Fest in October. Check out events, products and their new online store at www.echovalleyfarmwisconsin.com.
Zoua Moua Vang
At the Cameron Park Market, as well as at most other area farmers markets, there are a number of Hmong vendors. Their ancestors originally lived in southern China, and there they suffered ethnic persecution and war. In the late 1800s, Hmong families migrated to southeast Asia: Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.
Then followed years of French rule in “Indochina,” WWII invasion by Japanese forces, and political division of the Hmong clans in Laos. The Hmong people who remained in Laos supported the French and, later, the Laotian monarchy. These are the same Hmong who fought the communist Pathet Lao in Vietnam, and then later in Laos, when American forces and the CIA left southeast Asia. As Saigon fell, tens of thousands of Hmong fled the invading communists, hiding in the jungles of Laos. Many died there or when they crossed the Mekong River with their families, into Thailand. Their stays in Thai refugee camps were months to years long.
Zoua (zhō-a) Moua Vang remembers the camps. She lived as a refugee in Thailand from infancy to the age of 8. People all around her were poor and had no food. The Hmong had traditionally raised crops in the highlands of Laos, and over time, Zoua’s parents were able to use their farming skill to sell rice, chicken and papayas at a market in the camp.
Zoua immigrated to California with her parents, brother and sister. She later married and moved to Wisconsin with her husband. Now she has seven children, works full-time at Northern Engraving, and rents land in rural Bangor to grow vegetables and berries with the help of her family. She says her parents taught her by example to help her parents and her children. She started farming this year to teach her children the same lessons, and to teach them how to grow food to help themselves.
Some shoppers feel a language barrier keeps them from asking Hmong vendors about their products, but there is so much they have to share about their produce, their farming methods and their lives. Zoua speaks fluent English and will certainly share a full-blown summer crop of beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, bell peppers, jalapenos, garlic, beets and flowers with you. She markets Wednesdays at Shopko and then at Holmen Festival, Fridays at Cameron Park and Sundays at Onalaska Festival.