As the bus rumbled down the streets of Incheon-this small city (by Korean standards) of 2.5 mm people- I was wondering how we were going to see anything growing amidst the hundreds of sky high apartment buildings (which, as we learned, bestow more status on a family the higher the building). Soon a tiny sliver of green opened up and a small but beautiful urban farm came into view.
The Incheon Urban Agriculture Network was founded in 2007. The four founders/organizers travelled to Cuba and Japan to learn this type of organizing, which consisted of bringing together childcare facilities, libraries, etc to make this unique project happen. Last year they trained 1700 urban farmers and set them loose toward the organizational vision-"1 House, 1 Crop" till they reach 100,000 urban farming families in Incheon. Then, organizational leaders told us, they could make a big impact on the City.
The Network looks at urban farming very differently than we do here in Louisville. To them urban farming is a public value and a catalyst to fix the many problems associated with the high stress lives that so many families face here in this extremely competitive country. They are the site of weekend bar-b-ques. members who don't necessarily farm, pay membership fees simply because they believe in the cause.
We saw some familiar plants that would feel right at home in Kentucky as well as new (to me) varieties like mugwort and sesame leaves.
But have I told you about the kimchee? I had read that there are at least 100 different types of kimchee in Korea. There are also many, many side dishes-some pickled some not, mostly vegetables but sometimes sweet potato noodles, clams, acorn jelly (!), tofu.... At every meal the meat, fish, pork or chicken are the background hum for these loud and impressive sides. Everywhere we go people are feeding us these delicacies. Along with Makgeolli the Korean equivalent to Falls City Beer, with the nickname of "farmer liquor" I.e. what the peasants and regular folk drink. Sweet, slightly fizzy and cloudy like milk. Made out of Korean rice of course.
Our last stop today was at a fresh market where we dined on mung bean pancakes, fish cakes, and other Korean street food. Dried fish, fresh tripe, red lettuces, rice and the list goes on. Kimchee was everywhere and people were filling their bags.
Tomorrow we head to Seoul to view a native seed preservation network. Then onto the countryside. Cheers and may your days be filled with plenty of acorn jelly.
Executive Director, New Roots
*Follow Karyn as she eats and meets food justice leaders from South Korea. This will be an ongoing series documenting her journey.