Who: Xiong Pao Her of Her Produce.
Where: 25 acres in Fresno.
What: Xiong Pao was a soldier for the CIA in Laos from 1969-1975 and left Laos for Thailand in 1979. After the American troops left Vietnam in 1975, Laotians who had been working with the CIA were left behind as the US forces withdrew. The former soldiers were pursued and forced to flee by the Communist army when it reentered Laos. These Laotians soldiers were living and hiding in jungles in Laos for four years until they reached a refugee camp in Thailand in 1979.
Xiong Pao came to California in 1980, first to San Diego and then to Fresno; he is the first person in his family to farm and taught himself farming – he had no previous farming experience. He started out by leasing 5 acres of land, hiring some workers to help him, and growing eggplant and tomatoes. He then began growing more and more vegetables that his customers were requesting. He now farms 25 acres, sells exclusively at Farmers Markets, and has put his ten children through college and graduate school by farming. Xiong Pao loves farming because it is hard work but he gets to work for himself. He grows a wide variety of vegetables including eggplant, bok choy, sweet potatoes, mustard greens, cilantro, dill, leeks, Chinese broccoli and, harder to find, specialty Asian vegetables like ang choy, yu choy, pea tendrils, long beans, bitter melon, daikon, and raw peanuts. You can find Xiong Pao every other week at the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers Market.