The world is your organic oyster
These visiting interns from South Korea are ready to change the face of agriculture in their country and the world through the seeds of inspiration germinated at The Rodale Institute.

Posted September 15, 2006

editor's NOTE:

Last year The Rodale Institute hosted a group of sustainable agriculture students and their professor from South Korea for a two-week workshop. See South Korean sustainable ag students lend a hand for more on that visit.

This year, the professor, Dr. Jin Yong Choe, returned with another group of students for a four-week visit that included volunteer time with our research department and on-farm CSA. Here, two of those students share some reflections about their time at Rodale.

--NF Editors

A-Reum Song I am a sustainable agriculture student at Gyeong Sang National University in South Korea. I spent my summer vacation with my professor and seven team members volunteering with the research department at The Rodale Institute.

In my country, there is not a very good impression of organic agriculture. Farmers in South Korea follow similar standards of modern industrial agriculture dominant in the West. Even the small farmer typically relies heavily on chemicals. This, I think, is connected with yields. Commercial farmers think organic yields will be lower due to weed pressure and the poor quality of soil on land that has historically been farmed conventionally. A loss of yield can do serious damage to these farmers.

Most farmers and consumers in South Korea know that organic farming is being encouraged around the world. We just don’t have access to the evidence and facts motivating this change. Those who farm don’t know how to change from conventional agriculture to organic farming, they don’t understand why they must change, and they don’t know how such change will affect their profits.

The Rodale Institute is doing a good job answering these questions. Before coming here, I never saw a field farmed using only organic practices. I have learned so much. My professor always says “Never leave soil unclothed.” Bio-mulching is important, he says, and “as we build up healthy soil, we can produce a healthy crop.” Now I really know what he is talking about, because I have seen it with my own eyes. During my time here, I have seen and felt what organic farming is.

I hope our seven team members will become pioneers of organic agriculture in Korea. And I hope organic farming will become “normal” farming and “conventional” farming will someday be the anomaly, not only in my country but around the world.

Mu Yeong Park In the summer of 2006, a group of Korean students took on a new adventure. We traveled to The Rodale Institute’s 333-acre research farm for an internship program different from anything we could ever experience in our country.

Seeing organic systems practiced and compared to conventional farming gave us new facts and new knowledge about agriculture. These include the knowledge that organic practices such as cover cropping and limited and no tillage improve both the fertility and the water-holding capacity of the soil. These ideas have given us fresh insight.

Another new concept for us was Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I think this growing movement shows the concern many Americans share about agriculture and that they are willing to support organic farmers. And the fact that many young farmers take so much pride in the growing organic agriculture movement is a big difference compared to Korea.

I am sure that sustainable agriculture students from my university will continue to visit The Rodale Institute. I want to say to them:

  • Don’t bring your anxiety. If you don’t have a strong mind, the whole team will be weak together.
  • Do prepare. There is no time for preparing in the U.S.
  • Do what’s in front of you with full focus. If you don’t lose an opportunity, there is more to gain.

I want to say thank you very much to all the kind people who have helped us during our time in the United States.