Location: Xuyem Pham's Garden, East New Orleans, LA
Featuring: Xuyem Pham
Xuyen Pham fled Vietnam with her husband and children at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. After months in Southeast Asian refugee camps, they were moved to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas. The family was eventually sponsored by a hotel owner in Oklahoma, but due to the coldthey moved again, settling in the “Mary Queen of Vietnam," a community in East New Orleans.
Twenty years later, Xuyen lost her home again, this time to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the storm, she turned the property into a farm to feed her community. Xuyen’s farm is right in the middle of a suburban housing track in East New Orleans. Here, she stands amidst taro plants in in her home garden. The plant stems are a base ingredient in traditional soups and congees found on most Vietnamese dinner tables. By growing taro and other vegetables she keeps Vietnamese traditions alive in her community.
For Xuyen, food sovereignty requires both livelihood and self-determination. It’s the ability of community members to control food access and production independently of outside food sources. It empowers community elders to grow traditional fruits and vegetables and fisher folk to go shrimping, fishing, and crabbing to sell at local stores, the local Saturday farmers market, and most importantly, to feed their families, neighbors, and community members.