www.groovekorea.com / July 2014 46 E very Tuesday afternoon I get to my apartment to find a tantaliz- ingly weighty brown cardboard box from Gachi CSA sitting at my doorstep. Once inside, my shoes are off, the box is open before my door has time to shut behind me and I start to unpack: plump, sweet-smelling strawberries; potatoes and carrots with a healthy coating of dirt; vi- brant greens waiting to jump into a salad bowl. Closing my eyes, the smell of the countryside takes me out of Seoul for a few moments. Then I open them and start to cook. This bountiful box is a product of commu- nity-supported agriculture, a mutually sup- portive agreement between farmers and con- sumers, better known as CSA. In a traditional CSA agreement, consumers buy a share of what a farmer will produce during the growing season, which guarantees farmers a fair price for their crops in a profession plagued by tem- peramental weather. Consumers, in turn, are rewarded for their investment with a regular delivery of farm-fresh produce — and the knowledge that their support is going directly to the farmer growing their food. Joining a CSA is like having Christmas come once a week, so when I heard I could join one in Seoul, I immediately signed up. The weeks went on, and my belly got really happy as a result of my regular meals chock-full of or- ganic produce. As the seasons changed, I re- alized one core principle of CSA projects that I was lacking: a personal relationship with the farmers who feed me. The farmers behind the box If you head way east on Seoul’s Jungang Line, you’ll reach the heart of Paldang, a tranquil, green area in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province. I visited Hansol Farm to have lunch with proprietor Kim Byung-soo – the produc- er of the eggs and strawberries in my CSA boxes, and a founding father of the organic farming movement in Korea. In 1975, there were only about 20 or 30 organic farming families in the whole coun- try. Kim, a young mechanical engineer at the time, was inspired to quit his job after an organic farmer described how Korea’s rapid development was severing the relationship between farmers and consumers, between inhabitants of the countryside and of the city, between the young and the old. His message to Kim was clear: “Organic products are not just products,” but things that could also re- unite people torn apart by modernization and industrialization. Inspired (and incidentally, without any pre- vious experience), Byung Soo started raising chickens and strawberries. “I started farm- ing not especially for me, but for this town,” he says. Not only would the rise of organic farming have a critical environmental impact on the surrounding ecosystem, but it would also start to mend the rift between consum- ers and farmers, revitalizing a rural community continuing to struggle as young people flee to the cities. By 1987, the Paldang organic farming community was fully established. The region is currently farmed by over 1,000 families Story by Beryl Sinclair / photos by Hannah Green SHAKE THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU Weekly CSA deliveries bring new life to your kitchen Edited by Shelley DeWees (shelley@groovekorea.com) GROW LOCAL