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Seattle P-Patch Community Remembers Yao Fou Hinh Chao’s 25 Years of Service

Yao Fou in the garden.

For more than 25 years, Yao Fou Hinh Chao selflessly contributed to the P-Patch community by supporting over 800 immigrant gardeners with backgrounds ranging from Lao, Iu Mien, Vietnamese, Khmu, Hmong, Russian, and Latino. He mentored gardeners in crop rotation, garden planning, fertilization, organic soil practices, soil building, composting, harvesting, watering, and community building. Yao Fou managed Mien gardens and taught classes on nutrition and how to prepare traditional Mien foods and other dishes so that immigrant gardeners could prepare healthy cultural cuisine. Yao Fou’s commitment to maintaining and growing Seattle’s P-Patch is commendable, and we’re honored that he is willing to share his story with the Seattle community. Please enjoy an excerpt of an interview Yao Fou did with Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) through an interpreter:

How have your Mien and Laotian roots influenced your approach to horticulture and gardening?

Farming is my tradition and way of life. I am a farmer, and my ancestors were farmers. I am good at what I do. I am equipped and skillful and able to share my skills with my fellow gardeners and learn from them. We learned western and eastern cultural farming, similarities and differences, type of lands, seasons, and type of crops to plant in different seasons.

How do you think gardening and horticulture have impacted the well-being of immigrant seniors in the communities you serve?

The majority of the fellow gardeners are former farmers, former soldiers and retirees. Gardening and horticulture provide great impact to the immigrant seniors in the communities.

Gardening activities provide seniors an opportunity to build social connections, social networking, and create a sense of belonging in the community. I believe P-Patch provides many seniors with longevity. I saw seniors in their wheelchair wheel themselves to the garden site, sit on their wheelchair to watch their spouses working.

Yao Fou talking to a group of senior citizens in the garden.

If you could change the way we garden in Seattle, what suggestions would you make?

Get more gardening spaces for low-income Seattle Residents. Encourage local government to fund and invest in P-Patches to develop lands for gardening. Provide multilingual and multicultural services to gardeners. Majority of my gardeners are seniors and have language and cultural barriers.

Here’s what the community has to say about Yao Fou Hinh Chao’s tireless work in the P-Patch community:

Yoa Fou is a generous and talented leader who has done so much to bring people together in the spirit of community and shared goals. He’s connected countless people to the opportunity to build health, pride, and connection by growing food for their families and community in Seattle’s P-Patch gardens.  His contributions as an educator, advocate, and organizer have enhanced the beauty and abundance of Seattle in ways that are beyond measure. 

                ~ Minh Chau Le

Yao Fou has a great personality to work with Mien/Lao population, community, and P-Patch staff. He spent much of his time and effort supporting garden works such as P-Patch office liaison, organizing garden work parties, gathering, master composter training, garden development, cultural event, survey support, and problem-solving.  

                ~ Bunly Yun

Yao Fou was one of my most important garden mentors who provided me with lots of guidance for gardening, but also in life. I learned more efficient ways to garden for greater productivity with less work; learned about Mien gardening, culture, & agricultural practices; the values and intentions behind community gardening; and also to not be too serious about any one thing. I have a very strong memory of when he entrusted me to water his garden beds while he was away for a few weeks in the summer.     

            ~ Sharon Siehl, Youth & Families Program Director, Tilth Alliance 

Learn more about Seattle’s P-Patch Community Gardening Program and get involved.

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