Farm stay programs crop up around the country
This summer, changes in the nation’s school system have parents heading out to the countryside with their kids for a taste of the rural life.
Starting in September, 10 percent of all elementary, middle and high school students nationwide will adopt a five-day week in a trial run. All schools will go on the five-day system when the new school year starts in March.
The new schedule brings an end to the twice-a-month Saturday classes that used to occupy children’s time, and now parents are looking for outdoor activities to fill the void. Farm stays have become a popular option because they teach children important life skills, such as cooperation and the value of hard work.
“We have more families and students wanting to spend the day in a farming village,” said Park Jae-kun, an official with Gapyeong County, Gyeonggi. “And we get anywhere from dozens to hundreds of people a day.”
Parents also like farm stays for the social benefits they provide.
“Most kids these days are only children,” said Bang Ki-hyuk, a professor of practical arts at Gwangju National University of Education. “Through farm stays, they learn how to respect and socialize with others. They also learn ways to stretch their imaginations as they spend time in nature.”
Sometimes farm stays can even help steer children away from bad eating habits.
“What you see in big cities is an end product, but you can see how they grow in the countryside,” said Kim Jong-wu, an official at Seoul Science Park in Gwanak District, southwestern Seoul. “They come to have a whole different understanding of food they eat.”
During a recent visit to a farming village located in Seungan 2-ri, Gapyeong, a group of elementary school students were busy digging potatoes. The village is named “Nine Majigi.” Majigi is an old measurement of farmland.
On the day we visited, a group of elderly people were the teachers for the day. One of them was Cho Yoong-yong, 75, who advised children to handle potatoes with care, not to leave scars on potatoes with their hoes.
After digging potatoes, children headed to art classes where they made crafts using potatoes they harvested. Children were also seen frolicking at a nearby stream.
Nine Majigi is one of many farming villages that offer farm stay programs. Aside from hands-on experience digging potatoes and art class, the farm stay program, which costs 18,000 won ($16.40) per person, also enables participants to plant seedlings of rice, millet and other crops.
Here are three farm stay programs from around the country.
Dairy day: Imsil Cheese Village
In one class, children watch the entire cheese making process. Afterward, they have the opportunity to make their own cheese and then they use the cheese to make brick oven pizza.
The most popular class is an art class where children stretch a huge chunk of mozzarella cheese to make art. Another class lets kids dig for sweet potatoes and other vegetables.
Slow food: Boritgogae Village
“Boritgogae” or “borigogae” refers to the period between May and June when the harvested crops from the previous fall begin running short and the villagers still have to wait a couple of months to reap barley. The phrase was common until the 1950s but has rarely been used following Korea’s push to development.
Testing ground: Sesim Village
During the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), people aspiring to join the civil service took examinations. Of the many kinds of possible tests, one was the mungwa, or literary examination, another was the mugwa, or military examination.
Children who want to try the mungwa exam take a class at the nearby Oksan Confucian Temple and then take a written test. Those taking the mugwa exam learn archery, tuho (arrow toss) and more.
By Lee Hyun-taek [email@example.com]