Adelante Mujeres Celebrating 10 Years: Part 5 of 10

Note: Apologies for the late posting of this story (part 5 of 10), which was published at the end of July.

A glimpse of one of GX Family Garden's plots in Corbett.

Written by Charles Drummond

Chue Cha has had a special connection with the earth since early childhood in her native Laos.

Today she is the guiding force behind a successful family-operated micro enterprise that grows and sells fresh flowers and vegetables at local farmers markets, including the one in Forest Grove.

As a child growing up in a small village in the mountainous regions of Laos, it was in the family garden where she learned important lessons about farming.

Like many families among the Hmong ethnic groups, the food the family raised and grew in their Southeast Asian homeland helped sustain them through the year.

A quarter of a century later it is still the bounty from the family garden that sustains Chue Cha, her husband, Ge Xiong, and their family. Today, however, their crop doesn’t go directly from the garden to the table — instead, money earned at local farmers markets provides needed income.

The family business, in turn, gives something back to the three markets it attends.

With its spectacular array of bright flowers, the GX Family Garden booth is the visual star at each location.

Chue Cha launched the business 11 years ago. She credits other family members in Seattle and California for giving her the opportunity to learn the flower business.

She’s now passing that knowledge on to her six children, who also participate working in the fields and helping at the booth on market days. (In addition to the Wednesday market in Forest Grove, the family sells flowers at the Tuesday Market in Hillsboro and on the weekends at the Vancouver Farmers Market.)

The oldest of the children is 21-year-old Billie Xiong. Smart, affable and with a smile as broad and bright as her mother's, Billie functions as the family spokesperson.

Billie at work at the Forest Grove Farmers Market.

Forest Grove favorite
She says her mom’s favorite market is the Forest Grove Farmers Market. “We were one of the first vendors when Adelante Mujeres launched the market in the parking lot behind the Dollar Tree in 2005,” she said. “Our business has sort of grown right along with this market.”

The GX Family Garden grows its flowers and vegetables on two different plots in Corbett and Damascus.

Speaking through her daughter, Chue Cha said she is proud of the fact that everything is grown from seed. The seeds germinate in greenhouses and transferred as seedlings to the garden plots.

Decisions about varieties are made by trial and error as well as networking with the other family members in the flower business.

“But,” says Billie, “the main thing is how well they all go together to create one of our bouquets. We grow different varieties at different times during the season. All together we probably grow and harvest more than three dozen varieties.”

Working together
Watching family members assembling elaborate bouquets during a busy market day clearly demonstrates how hard they work, but also how well they work together.

On a recent Wednesday, Billie and her two oldest brothers — Kevin, 19, and Jason, 15 — joined their mother in a blur of colorful choreography, somehow managing to not get in each other’s way in the tight confines of a 10-by-10-foot booth while putting together their floral creations.

Flowers await arranging at the GX Family Garden stand.

By 8 p.m., market closing time, all that remained in the booth were the empty plastic pots used to keep the flowers fresh. According to Billie, “this is the best time of year for us. The flowers are the prettiest and customers are in the mood to purchase.”

On the days that aren’t as successful, Billie says that they often donate the unsold flowers to senior centers or convalescent homes, giving back to the communities that are helping support their family.