Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Trading the rat race for field mice

Take a look at any South Korean metropolis and it's easy to forget that many KoKos (a majority?) are only one or two generations removed from the farm.

The concentration of people in the cities is absurdly high, but who knew that it might be something that it could reach a point where it might actually start to go back in the other direction? Urbanites who are fed up with the crowdedness, expense, and pollution of the cities are part of a growing trend (?) of people moving back to the countryside for the bucolic charm of the farm.

From the Korea Times:
A lot of office workers become sick and tired of urban life and dream about settling down in rural areas to make a living while farming instead. And some people take on the challenge to make this dream come true, though it’s not easy to give up city life and start a completely new one.

Country life is actually far from leisurely or romantic — farming is different from gardening, and the urban community is wholly different from a rural one. Many of the so-called “returnees to farming” make a U-turn back to the city after a bitter experience.
A big reason for this about-face is that the city folk play Frank MacBride to the local yahoos (that's a "Green Acres" reference):
“It is mainly because of the lack of information about rural life. ‘Returnees’ should be a part of the rural community, but they tend to maintain the lifestyle and neighbor relationships they used to have in the city. Some of them look down on rural people, causing conflicts with their new neighbors,” said Heo Nam-don, manager at the Agriculture Technology Center, an affiliated organization of Seoul Metropolitan Government.
And the Seoul Metro government, anxious to relieve at least a little population pressure on the city, is happy to oblige with a kick in the pants in the form of classes that will help them get started:
To minimize such conflicts and help such returnees settle in the country, the city government organized a three-month course on farming and rural life last year. Most of the classes focused on the practical, not theory, such as actual farming techniques, agricultural management and information on farmland as well as facility purchase and registration.

A total of 91 people took the course in two terms — 46 in the first term and 45 people in the second term.

“Almost all of them were office workers. None of them have ever engaged in farming before, although some of those in their 50s and 60s, who were born in farming regions, used to help their parents when they were young,” said Song Im-bong, the team leader of the city government’s Economic Promotion Headquarters.

“Most of the older trainees took the course as they wanted to start a second life in the country after retirement, while the younger ones see farming as a new chance to start a business during an economic crisis,” Song said. Thirteen of the 91 participants were in their 30s and 24 were in their 40s.
This whole back-to-basics farming trend not a new concept to me. I cited such farmers in this post on the korani, a tusked deer that is the bane of tuber and cabbage farmers because it digs up their crops. Still, I guess if I had to be kept up late at night, I'd prefer it to be watching for deer than going to round three of soju with the boss.

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