May 20, 2002
Faces from the Market
by Lincoln Potter
Special to the Weekly
The next time you visit Woodinville's Saturday Farmers Market be on the lookout for the round, quick-to-smile face of Maika Xiong. Her table will be loaded with fresh flowers and produce, two or more of her four kids will be orbiting in over and under foot and Maika will be working at something Ñ anything. She's a never-stop workaholic which must be an indispensable trait for any farmer.
As an ethnic Hmong, growing up in war-ravaged Laos, her family never stopped moving. Every time they settled the Vietcong would harass the former U.S. allies until the nine-year-old Maika and her family escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand.
There was little future for anyone in those camps, but after five long years of applying, the family was accepted into a refugee program in Wisconsin.
A technical school degree in cooking and easy mastery of the art pointed toward a successful life in the new land, but fate and romance introduced her to a visiting young Hmong farmer from Seattle.
Carnation, in the fertile Snoqualmie Valley, is home and farm now. The kids can walk to school and the leased organic-certified fields are nearby. Most days Maika's husband, Tong, mans the family booth in the Pike Street Market with their flowers, artichokes, carrots, beets, Swiss chard, peas, mustard greens and all types of herbs.
Maika loves life and getting her hands in the soil and the hard work.
but after all her years of struggle she just can't get over the pain she feels when her precious unsold flowers must be thrown out.