New film follows 3 farmers traveling the world : The friends worked on over 30 organic farms in 12 countries

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New film follows 3 farmers traveling the world : The friends worked on over 30 organic farms in 12 countries

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“Farming Boys,” released July 13, is a documentary that features three young men’s journey around the world to learn farming techniques. [JIN JIN PICTURES]

Two years ago, three friends began a journey across 12 countries. Their goal was not to see architectural wonders or taste exotic cuisines, but instead to learn various farming techniques.

The three friends - Kwon Du-hyeon, 30, Kim Ji-seok, 30, and Yoo Ji-hwang, 31 - were Gyeongsang natives who had always been interested in farm life.

Kwon’s parents run a strawberry farm, Kim used to work at a local farming supply shop and Yoo studied engineering with the hopes of becoming a farm tool expert.

To cover the cost of their trip, they first took a yearlong working holiday in Australia, where the minimum wage is three times that of Korea’s. During the journey, they worked on 35 organic farms by Wwoofing, or volunteering with Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a movement linking volunteers with organic farmers.

To share their experience and to encourage young, desperate and landless farmers, they filmed their entire journey, which opened at theaters last week under the title “Farming Boys.” Though they traveled around Asia and Europe, the completed film only depicts their stay in European countries, including Italy, France and the Netherlands.

After being inspired by Japanese agriculture, Yoo contacted Kwon and Kim, who he had met through friends and they began their journey together.

“When I traveled to Japan a few years ago, I was amazed by how much effort the country puts into developing its agriculture,” Yoo told the Korea JoongAng Daily during a recent interview, citing the Japanese government’s longtime efforts to raise young farmers. “Seeing 40 different types of grain in the agriculture market shocked me and made me want to travel to experience other countries’ farming.”

Though they began their journey with a clear sense of purpose, they encountered many challenges along the way. For instance, they had to walk 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) per day to arrive at each farm, and once they did, they had to begin work right away.

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Having to film themselves was another challenge.

“Instead of talking about how we felt and what we learned at the end of the day, our usual topic was what we should shoot for tomorrow,” said Kwon. “We couldn’t do anything impulsive, which is part of the fun that comes from traveling, because we were shooting.”

But they also had many “invaluable experiences,” he said. For example, they met a group of young Italians who illegally occupied government land and used it as a farm, and worked with a French couple that was running their farm through the support of Terre de Liens, a civic organization that promotes land preservation and facilitates access to farmland for organic and peasant farmers in France.

They were also impressed by a wealthy landowner in Belgium, who was willing to provide part of her land for free to young people wishing to farm.

“I was very impressed by the landowner’s generosity in lending out her land,” Kim said.

“The landowner said that it is important to ‘pay back to nature,’ which stuck in our hearts throughout the journey,” said Kwon.

One of the most memorable experiences in Europe was getting to know Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a system that connects producers and consumers within the food system by allowing consumers to subscribe to the harvests of a certain farm.

“Though we have farming in Korea,” said Kim, “that’s usually just a one-time event, whereas CSA runs continuously.”

“I sensed that the job of a young farmer is considered some kind of public property in Europe,”
said Yoo. “There seemed to be a general belief that young farmers need to be nurtured and protected.”

Though this single journey may not have changed the lives of the three friends, it has impacted each of them in important ways.

“My goal was to discover what I like,” said Kim, who is currently working at a cooperative farmer’s market. “I still haven’t yet specifically found what I like, but I came to think of opening a cafe, where I can sell something I make, like apple jam.”

“My purpose in life has changed,” said Kwon. “In the past, I thought about purchasing a good car and a house. But now, my goal is to create a farm community, where diverse people, including traveling and disabled Wwoofers can interact.”

Kwon described a farm they found in the Netherlands, where he saw people with disabilities farming.

Kwon has inherited his parents’ strawberry farm, which makes his dream feel a little more realistic to pursue.

After the journey, Yoo realized the importance of staying politically aware.

“We have to be interested in policies that target young people to be able to make a change,” he emphasized.

Yoo has launched a business that provides small, movable houses to young, landless farmers.

Though these three friends may be unsatisfied with the documentary, as it includes only their stay in Europe and leaves out much of their daily routines like making trivial jokes and having arguments, they agreed that the documentary could help promote Korean agriculture.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]

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