On Tuesday, August 25, 80 people gathered at Olson Townhomes to participate in the North Minneapolis Laotian Garden Tour. Laotian gardeners led neighbors and fellow gardeners through dense rows of long beans, hot peppers, Vietnamese mint, cucumbers and tomatoes. Channel 5 and channel 11 also came. After the tour participants enjoyed delicious kou pun curry made with vegetables harvested from the garden
The garden tour was organized to highlight the importance of the garden to the Laotian community. The Laotians hope to be able to preserve the garden even when the construction of the Bottineau LRT and related development comes.
The North Minneapolis Laotians’ garden is located at Olson Townhomes near Olson Highway and Humboldt Ave. N. Olson Townhomes has the largest concentration of Laotians in the Twin cities. The Laotians started arriving as war refugees in the United States and North Minneapolis about 40 years ago. The families were overjoyed when they got small plots in a garden right next to their homes.
The garden provides the Laotians with exercise, healthy food, relaxation, and helps them save money. They gather together in the morning and evening to work in the garden, which also helps them preserve their community, language, culture and memories
This little garden has quietly provided healthy foods, exercise, and community for Olson Townhomes Laotians for decades. But that may all change with the coming of the Bottineau LRT. The Bottineau line is planned to run down Olson Highway, next to the garden and the Laotian’s homes. A stop is planned a short distance away, at Olson and Van White Boulevard.
Lao Assistance Center director Sunny Chanthanouvong says that about 6 months ago LAC staff started hearing – both from Bottineau LRT planners and proponents and from elected officials – that the Olson Townhome garden could potentially be replaced by high density housing or other development associated with Bottineau LRT.
Most of the Laotian gardeners are seniors: many have health problems, many have mobility problems, and many do not have cars. The garden works for them because it is easy access for those with difficulty moving around. With all the mobility problems, The Laotians say if their garden disappears,, even if they are granted access to other plots of land out of easy walking distance, their gardening community will be lost.
The north side Laotians hope that the garden tour has helped tell others about the importance of the garden to the Laotian community, and hope that with the support of others the garden will continue for many years to come.