A passionate, persuasive, eco-friendly farmer

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A passionate, persuasive, eco-friendly farmer

When Huh Byung-sup was the first farmer to forgo the use of pesticides and fertilizers on his fields in Muju county, South Jeolla province, his neighbors wondered why the 65-year-old would go through the extra labor required to go chemical free.
But Mr. Huh, a former urban social activist, is a persuasive and passionate environmentalist, and he carefully explained the health and environmental benefits of organic farming to fellow farmers.
County officials heard his points about the advantages of a clean, pollution-free environment, decided that it was the best way to revive the region and agreed to promote organic farming techniques. Mr. Huh became a member of the county’s agricultural administration review committee, and he provided a blueprint for eco-friendly agriculture, along with specific ways to practice it.
“Mr. Huh has given a new vision of eco-friendly agriculture to our county, which has been damaged by industrialization,” says Kim Sae-woong, chief of Muju county.
About half of the 5,000 farming households are now using eco-friendly methods. Agricultural products marked with an eco-friendly certification are selling for 30 to 40 percent more at markets in Seoul, contributing to income increases for the farming community.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Huh devoted himself to the plight of the urban poor in Seoul. His efforts put him in prison frequently for violating the government’s orders and regulations concerning public gatherings. Mr. Huh was the hero of the 1982 movie “People in a Slum,” a story of the destitute life of such people.
“I realized that an industrialized city was an impossible space to embody humane values and the real meaning of life,” Mr. Huh says. “I felt that a rural area would be a good place to have a productive life.”
Mr. Huh ended his urban life in 1996 and found a new home on a remote mountainside in Muju county. He has been leading an ecological movement in the area for the past 10 years. He and his wife built a house out of dirt bricks they made themselves. After purchasing a 4,000-square-meter (1 acre) plot of land, he began organic farming using ducks and freshwater snails.
“Soil and trees are the most friendly building materials for humans,” he says. “They breathe on their own and after dying return to nature without producing any pollution.”
Mr. Huh also teaches a class on eco-construction at Green University, an alternative higher education institute established in 2003, of which he is president. “The ecology movement is about finding peace in one’s mind and also saving our suffering Earth,” Mr. Huh says.

by Yang Guang-sam
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