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Perfect summer Friendly Vang Johnson

Friendly Vang Johnson. Photo by Joshua Huston

A perfect summer day: Time with Grandma

Friendly Vang-Johnson would have loved her grandma to meet her daughters

A perfect summer day for me would be bridging space and time to somehow connect my daughters with the great-grandmother they never got to know. 

We would first spend the morning at the farmers’ market watching and learning from my grandmother as she expertly negotiated the price of her leeks, basil, and parsley with the chefs who always arrived at her stand early to get the best produce. 

We would watch as she brokered a deal with limited English, full of pride. 

We would help fetch a bucket of water so she could rinse off her vegetables, produce so freshly harvested they still had too much dirt on them to be deemed presentable to customers.  

We’d buy her a couple of doughnuts and a cup of coffee with cream and two sugars, her only indulgence as the hardworking matriarch. 

We would help her close up shop and take her produce back home, then eat a traditional Hmong meal of white rice, boiled squash, and quick stir-fry with a spicy chili sauce on the side, chock full of cilantro, garlic, and fish sauce, before commuting to the farm to tend to the fields before the sunset. 

We would race against the dusk to harvest zucchinis before they got too large for customers’ preferences, pluck armfuls of corn cobs off the stalks, and carefully hunt for hidden baby tomatoes hiding in the upright staked vines. 

Grandma would be exhausted as we closed the door to our minivan and drove home, but she would still take time to tell us an old folk story about tigers living in the jungles of Laos. My girls would be riveted but not scared. The stars would come out, and Grandma would say sternly:

“Go to bed! You’ve got to get up early tomorrow to help me.” 

That would be the end of a perfect summer day.    

Friendly manages Friendly Hmong Farms, leveraging her 20+ years of experience in social justice work. Her understanding of the intersection between food sovereignty, land reparations, and racial justice was shaped by a childhood growing up in the Frogtown neighborhood, farming in the summers, and at the markets with her mom and grandmothers in Minnesota.

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About the Author

Friendly Vang-Johnson