Mien farmers cultivate their own garden in East Oakland


May Yan Saechao shows off the makeshift fencing that protects her garden patch at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park. Photo by Don Clyde/KQED.

In the heart of East Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood, the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park is an incongruous reminder of California’s Mexican past: 6 acres of open space in a sea of single-family homes. What was once a massive ranchero now features a Victorian house surrounded by carefully tended vegetable gardens.

Ben Glickstein is director of outreach here. He says back in 1820, Antonio Peralta had big agricultural dreams for this stretch of land that slopes down to Peralta Creek. “And we’re still using this for agriculture, for food, here in the middle of this pretty urban neighborhood.”

Ten years ago, a local community organizer got an idea. Why not let a handful of elderly refugees from Laos work this land? So today, schoolchildren visit to learn about 19th century life in California – making adobe bricks and grinding corn for tortillas – alongside Mien gardeners from Southeast Asian mountain country, refugees from the so-called “Secret War” that the U.S. conducted in their country half a century ago.

Read the complete story at KQED News Fix.

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