On my last three WWOOF trips in Gyeonggi-Do, I’ve had a genuinely rewarding experience learning the importance of organic farming through getting my hands dirty in the day-to-day running of the farm, listening to the inspirational hosts and meeting many like-minded people from all over the world.
I had heard a lot about WWOOF back in the UK and after several months living in Seoul, I decided it was time to get some fresh air and try farming, Korean-style.
The first farm I worked on was Kim Beong Su’s chicken farm. We collected eggs first and then gave the chickens new soil for the floor of their coops. The chickens were happy to see us but we had to be careful not to excite them too much. At Beong Su’s farm I have also shovelled soil in greenhouses after the harvest (50 degrees plus – it’s like a free jimjilbang!) and weeded a new vegetable field. It is always hard work and we are covered in sweat and grime by the end of the day, but it is a good feeling to get your hands dirty for a good cause.
In May, Kim Beong Su adopted hundreds of fluffy chicks. I spent several hours on guard duty, chasing them and putting them back in their cages – two weeks later though they had already doubled in size and could not escape so easily! Kim Beong Su taught us that chickens bred for fast food restaurants like McDonalds or KFC only live for 4 weeks before being slaughtered and processed. It is important to remember that food needs time to grow and it is good to see Beong Su’s chicks, now 5/6 weeks old, are growing naturally and happily.
The second farm I visited was Kim Sang Kyun’s vegetable farm. Here I learnt how to fertilise rice paddies organically (with live snails – who knew) and also got hands-on with planting rice – it’s a lot harder than it looks! We also worked hard weeding, preparing the fields and planting.
The WWOOF hosts make sure that the volunteers were always happy as they worked alongside us. Most importantly we are always generously rewarded for our efforts with delicious, healthy food to eat – all organic and home-made of course – and plenty of Makgeolli (Korean rice wine) to drink. I still dream of the fried fish and grilled pork that Kim Sang Kyun’s lovely mother made for us…
Many thanks to the hardworking WWOOF Korea team and their hosts, I look forward to my next visit!