J500 Media and the Environment

Huns Garden Offers Homegrown Healing by alyv

When Pov (pronounced Paul) Huns heard that his neighbor’s granddaughter had been sick for two weeks and was running a fever, he knew just what to do.

He walked down to a little patch in his 4-acre garden next door and found a tall, green herb. He cut a few stalks and carried them up the hill to his neighbor’s house. He knocked, and his neighbor, Dawn Beckett, opened the screen door.

Urban farmer, Pov Huns

Urban farmer, Pov Huns

“Boil these in four cups of water for 10 or 15 minutes,” he said, handing her a fistful. He told her the herb, lemongrass, makes a tea that would make her granddaughter, Leanna, feel better.

Dawn did as Pov instructed and today claims that Leanna’s fever fell 20 minutes after drinking the tea.

“I know it works,” Dawn said. “I trust him over a doctor. I can’t say nothin’ but the best about ‘im.

Leanna, 9, still drinks the herbal tea, and says it’s delicious.

But Pov said he was just doing what his grandpa taught him to do in Laos, before Pov and his family were forced to leave the country as political refugees.

Born Zoou Pov Huns on April 6, 1966, Pov grew up in the rural hill town of Ban Nam Tao, Laos. Pov would know this home for only nine years.

In 1975, Pov, his mother, father and six younger brothers escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand. He spent the next five years of his life in the Ban Vinai camp with about 45,000 other refugees.

The Huns came to America in 1980, eventually settling in Fresno, Calif., where Pov finished high school and graduated from junior college and a vocational school. Although he pursued degrees in medicine and chemistry, he wasn’t able to afford the cost to finish his degrees and stopped a year short of completing his schooling. He settled in Kansas with his wife, Lor Chaxamone, in 1996.

It wasn’t until 2004, after he and his wife had welcomed four children into the world- Tzouapang, 13; Victoria, 12; Bryan, 10; and Charles, 8  – that Pov bought the vacant lot, 4730 Metropolitan Ave., Kansas City, Ks., where his farm now grows.

Pov said his initial intent was to use the land to build a new house for his family, but as the housing market started to sour and his cholesterol began to climb, Pov decided to turn the lot into a farm, where he could grow food for his family, and make himself healthier.

Pov plants lettuce in the rows between his wife's irises.

Pov plants lettuce in the rows between his wife's irises.

Pov said he especially needed the antioxidants naturally found in food, which are lost when produce is shipped over long distances.

“If you’re looking for nutrients, healthy eating isn’t enough any more,” he said. “Stores don’t have foods with antioxidants. When you buy local, the antioxidants stay with the food.”

Today, Pov’s farm grows 40 different vegetables, most of which have unique health benefits: Epazote, or “Mexican basil,” to reduce gas; bitter melon (which, Dawn warned, is really bitter) to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar; and bitter eggplant to ease the pain of menstrual and postpartum cramps.

Although Pov grows herbs for today’s common ailments, his farming methods are anything but ordinary.

“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “Most of what I do is the opposite of what you’re told to do.”

Pov works 4 acres of land yet doesn’t use a single drop of water to irrigate – he lets Mother Nature take care of that.

Farmers are told to plant onions 8-to 12-inches a part. Pov plants a bulb every 2 inches, then lets the onions pop themselves out of the ground. Because of this, Pov said he can harvest about 400 onions in 20 minutes.

The most notable feature of Pov’s unorthodox farming is the abundance of weeds sprinkling his land, some of which grow shoulder-high. The practice, he is told by friends and visitors, would make some ancestors turn in their graves. But to Pov, weeds are just “natural nitrogen.”

“It’s common practice for Americans to keep weeds out, and I’m the one that says keep the weeds in,” he said. “I don’t add fertilizer. I add weeds.”

Pov also puts his unsold vegetables back onto the farm as fertilizer.

“Whatever Mother Natures gives us, that’s what we take,” he explained. “Take only what you need and use. All the excess, return it back to the ground.”

Pov uses string from the dollar store to help his peas grow tall.

Pov uses string from the dollar store to help his peas grow tall.

Pov knows there isn’t a lot of money in farming – he made a net income of about $895 last year from the farm. But he said the money doesn’t matter to him. Pov farms for his health; he farms for his family; he farms for his neighbors and anyone else who desires more natural treatment for illnesses.

And, he said, he farms for fun.

By Aly Van Dyke

More photos found here.

Find out more about the urban farmers in Kansas City at the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture Web site. Visit its blog for informationa about the KC Urban Farms and Gardens Tour.


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