Herb heaven breathes life into city folk

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Herb heaven breathes life into city folk

Deep in the countryside of Gangwon province is a place called Heungjung valley. Here one can breathe clean air, hear birds chirping ― and smell many kinds of aromatic herbs.
Upon entering Herbnara Farm, a 10-minute drive from the town of Bongpyung, in Pyeongchang county, a determined visitor will discover at least 150 kinds of herbs.
Lee Ho-soon, 60, the founder of Herbnara, began his second life here in 1993. When he married Lee Doo-yi, he promised her that they would someday move to the countryside.
Herbnara is the fruit of that promise. He abandoned a position as president of a Samsung subsidiary, while Ms. Lee resigned from the Indoor Gardening Institute of Korea.
Throughout his 26-year career, Mr. Lee never abandoned the dream of country living. He visited numerous farms during his business trips and came up with the idea of an herb farm. Finding the land was the biggest headache; he sought a place not too far from a major city, but with a rural atmosphere. He had to log a lot of kilometers before he decided on Bongpyung.
It took time for the Lees to adjust to the agrarian life. They suffered endless blisters and cramps in the process of watering almost 7 hectares (17 acres) of land. They persevered in planting herbs, and then erected a cafe, a restaurant and rain shelters about the farm.
After three years of hard work, the farm opened to the public. Tourists have slowly discovered Heungjung valley, lured by Ms. Lee’s herb-based food and sundries, along with the pastoral backdrop.
Mr. Lee now visits farms abroad in hopes of unearthing tips to improve his own. His latest wish is to cultivate culture on his farm. That’s why he built a 400-seat hall in which he sponsors weekend concerts with a nature theme.
He is also an active participant in the Hyo Suk Culture Festival, held each September for the past five years. He applies his business management skills to the local festival’s operation. He even visits Japan to acquire trade tips at the famous Soba Festival.

by Lee Man-hoon
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