Move over Louisville: Yang-Pyeong is The new local food capital. This small town of 107,000 people (20% farmers) about one hour south of Seoul is branded by local officials as the country's most environmentally friendly, where local organic food is Queen.
We were greeted by a civil servant who started this movement, and is now director of a public corporation that receives support from the County and Federal Governments. Their first project was a local food distribution hub that services and restores restaurants in Seoul. Recently, they opened an all local food store in their main village.
This scenario would be akin to the Hart County local government, for example, organizing farmers and doing the work of establishing a direct market store in downtown Munfordsville and creating market links in Louisville, and subsidizing it all to the tune of $500,000 a year.
The all local village store was full of fascinating locavore gems like eight variety sticky rice, fermented mulberry tea leaves, And (drum roll please.....) collard greens! Photos of farmers lined the coolers and a hipsteresque coffee/blueberry drink bar was placed in the corner.
We got to meet one of the ventures strawberry farmers and then later saw his photo up in the store above his berries, linking consumer to farmer a la New Roots.
But nothing could prepare me for meeting the organizers of Hansalim (www.hansalim.or.kr). This is the country's oldest Cooperative, where coops of farmers are connected to coops of consumers similar to Fresh Stops. However instead of receiving shares, members
shop at all local stores and online putting together baskets of fresh produce, grains, beans etc all from farmer owned coops. In fact Hansalim will not purchase from individual farmers only coops, incentivizing working together. All food is organically raised.
To say I am inspired by the Hansalim farmers and organizers I met is a huge understatement. They have 410,000 members and almost 3000 farmers y,all!
In the winter the consumers forecast with the farmers what they want all year and set prices. They have set up a fund both groups pay into so in case of crop failures the farmers still get paid. I asked how they deal with slumped sales and they told me they send in the good looking male Hansalim staff members to motivate the "housewives" to buy more cabbage, radishes, etc. they say it works like a charm.
We finished the day on a native seed plant surrounded by heirloom Korean leeks, tomatoes and of course the Korean national drink, Mackeli.
Executive Director, New Roots Inc.