Right before I left, Tae asked me to write some notes about my experience on the farm. He wanted to know what I liked and what could be improved. I tried to convey to him that I had a wonderful time with virtually no real complaints. But, he insisted I be very critical, to not hold back. As part of my reflection in this blog post, I will explain what criticisms I came up with:

To preface: In my opinion, WWOOF is more than just an organization that promotes organic farming practices around the world. It also has some other environmentally-minded pillars to its mission. One, it supports general environmental conversation, like preserving resources and biodiversity. Two, they aspire to build local food systems that can provide healthy, organic food to all. Both of my criticisms showcase how the farm fails to uphold the values of WWOOF that I have mentioned.

  1. Since there has been a population shift from farms to cities in South Korea, the government offers incentives for people to return to the countryside and farm. Perhaps the biggest is cheap electricity. So, the farm took advantage of this and never turned off the lights in the storage shed, the biggest building on the property. Sure, it would not have saved them money to turn them off at night (since the bill was about $3 a month), but it still uses up resources which contradicts WWOOF’s sustainability values.
  2. This one is a little trickier to articulate. Yes, this farm is a family owned farm. And yes, they adhere to organic practices. But, it does not have much intent on strengthening the local food system. Why? Because blueberries are not a popular Korean food and thus are really expensive. They are sometimes inaccessible for lower income, working class people in an area that is populated mostly by farmers. These blueberries are meticulously selected and sometimes even hand delivered directly to consumers in Seoul. While it is isn’t wrong of them to be in the business to make money (market price is $17 a kilo), I would have liked to been on a farm that tried harder to break down the barrier between income and having access to healthy, organic food in their community.

All that being said, my time in Korea was fantastic– honestly, a dream come true. Tae and his family are opening a café on the property. They told me I have a coupon for free coffee for life there– so I have to go back someday!