A few, few, few months ago, I had a chance to spend two weeks at a farm in Jeollabuk-do. It was a 4 hours bus ride from Busan (and 3 if coming from Seoul).
It’s a certified organic farm located on a bit of a hill. The wind can be strong at times so crops are grown on terraces with plastic bags to cover the soil to prevent it from blown or erode away.
Farming on a hill is not the most ideal practice but a lot of Korean farmers still do it because I learned that only 1/3 of the land in Korea is arable and land values for those are fairly pricey. Furthermore, hours of work during summer are often reduced due to heat and even stops in the winter, since some places would be covered in snow (hence all the greenhouses).
I was volunteering there with a Singaporean and two Danish girls. It consists of 6 hours of work split between three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon (so we don’t die in the noon heat). The day usually consists of pulling weeds, packing or planting vegetations. Unfortunately, I learned I’m not very good at planting things and it’s actually much more difficult than I thought … so that dream of being a farmer when I retire, is officially over :(
In this corner of Korea, bright lights and sounds mean the stars and the croaking of the frogs … it was all surprisingly relaxing and meditating!
The food we ate was from the vegetation we planted. Since the Danish girls are vegetarians, the host made some simple but creative vegetarian dishes! Nom nom…
The hosts were really nice and wanted us to experience the local Korean life, so we got to visit local museums, interesting neighbors and even MAKE FRESH kimchi!
We used cabbage pulled straight from the ground and other fresh ingredients from the farm or at the local market.
My farmer-mate @qphasawebsite made this video. She picked the song because we made the kimchi … with lots and lots love.
From this experience at the farm, I got to learn how the vegetables were grown, the different local Korean vegetation, as well as the various wild yet edible plants on the hills and mountains. Most importantly, it gave me a greater appreciation for food (because lots of efforts were put into farming). I think older Koreans know this because they eat every bit of food on the plate and bowl, even putting water in the bowl to pick up the smallest piece of rice stuck on it.
So, the next time you order food in Korea, whether it be vegetables, rice or meat, remember to finish eating everything on your plate (plus, if you do, the owner of the restaurant usually give you compliments, and who doesn’t like compliments?) =)
Special Thanks to Qingping, Sidsel, Sille, and our wonderful hosts!