www.groovekorea.com / July 2014 50 GROW LOCAL Edited by Jenny Na (jenny@groovekorea.com) R iding along a bumpy country road in Namyangju, the fresh air was quickly invaded by a subtle stench as the van turned a corner to reveal hundreds of chickens pecking about in their coops. I had arrived at Hansol Farm with a group of people participating in a week- end day trip for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or WWOOF. As a first-time volunteer, I was excited to be out of the city and eager to learn more about organic farming. Kota Fukuyama, who has been working as the manager of WWOOF Korea for the past three years, says the program offers participants the chance to experience the lives and work of farmers and local people while supporting them by lending a helping hand. “The rest is up to you. If you are interested in organic farming, you can learn from working and talking with farmers. If you want to learn about the local way of cooking, you can go to their kitchen and learn by helping them. It is also a great opportunity to learn the language the hosts speak,” Fukuyama says. “All these elements are real, down-to-earth cultural experiences, and the concept of ‘exchange’ makes it happen. … It’s about learning about life through working and living with people with different backgrounds.” Although few people who join the program have previous farming experience, the program is organized in a way that allows those new to farm work to still be useful. Fukuyama says that the tedious work of growing various commodity crops on organic farms means that help is always needed, and because most small-scale organic farms do not use the same machinery as large-scale farms, the tasks for volunteers are easier and safer. WWOOF fever WWOOF was created in England in 1971 as a way to bring peo- ple and farmers closer together, and has since expanded to over 100 countries worldwide. Korea joined the movement in 1997 and there are now 62 farms registered with the program around the peninsula. With around 400 new members every year; Fukuyama hopes this number will soon double. One thing he feels sets WWOOFing in Korea apart is the variety in the types of host locations on offer, which ranges from temples and salt farms to farmers who own small restaurants. People who volunteer for the program exchange their labor for room and board at a participating farm and pay a membership fee of 50,000 won per year. Each farm grows different crops, and before a stay is arranged, the volunteer and host agree on a work schedule. After the workday is over, many hosts will take volunteers around the area or otherwise help them explore. Most WWOOFers stay for at least a week, but for those who can’t take that much time away there is Group WWOOF. This program offers day and weekend trips, and was started to make WWOOFing more accessible to busy volunteers while helping host farms amass a larger labor force for major tasks during busy seasons. Fukuyama says that there are plans to expand the program, including a version of Group WWOOF for businesses. “WWOOF participants always say they don’t have many opportuni- ties to see how their food is grown,” he says. “These programs play a big role in bridging the gap between consumers and producers.” For younger farming enthusiasts, WWOOF Korea created a new Story by Kyndra Love / photos by Hannah Green FLY THE COOP And support the organic farming community with WWOOF Korea