Jeju farm trip

A visit to my friend’s family farm in Jeju

Last month, I wrote about the tiny urban farms tucked into nooks and crannies of Jeju City. But once you get out of the city, there is even more land and Jeju has a ton of farms.

Invited to Hallim

In the summer, my husband and I were invited by my friend Bokee, to visit her sister’s farm in Hallim, Jeju on our way to the beach one day. We were excited to go on a Jeju farm trip and accepted the invitation. Bokee picked us up in the city, and we drove to her sister’s house, about 40 minutes from the city. We sat down to delicious cake and watermelon and met Bokee’s nieces and sister.

Jeju farm trip
Bokee’s nieces play a game at their home.

Iconic rock walls

Jeju is known for its wind, rocks, and women as every Jeju person ever loves to remind non-Jejuians. Well, the hype is true. Since Jeju farmers deal with extreme winds, they build fences from volcanic rocks to protect their crops. Fence builders expertly stack and balance the rocks, and they don’t use any adhesive material to keep the rocks in place. To find out more about the agrarian system in Jeju, you might like to read this excerpt or buy this book about farming practices.

 

Jeju_style_home

Jeju_volcanic_rock_garden

Fruity perfection

Outward appearance is quite important in Korea. A woman at a bakery I frequented often told me one day, “You complexion is looking much better these days!” When I asked my Korean friend when we left the shop, she said that is a normal thing to say to someone else in passing. This obsession with outward appearance doesn’t just relate to humans. Big and perfect-looking fruit are most valuable in South Korea. If fruit is large, it costs more (but all fruit is quite expensive).

I recently read this article with beautiful illustrations about a farmer who tried to introduce organic farming practices in Jeju but struggles and fails to educate the market about the benefits of organic produce because they care so much about fruit’s appearance. I learned through the article, that if fruit is ugly, it is immediately thrown away by most farmers. They might not understand my fascination with visually unique vegetables and fruit. I’ve been buying them and photographing them for years! I remember spending an inordinate amount on a Buddha’s hand citrus fruit at Whole Foods solely because it was so weird looking.

The Jeju farm trip

After a brief visit to Bokee’s sister’s house, Bokee drove us to the farm, nearby the home. They had a large greenhouse there, so presumably, don’t have to worry as much about wind. The farm has tangerine oranges (a very popular crop in Jeju), chilis, cucumbers, watermelon, garlic, onions, and other vegetables. They kept gathering more and more vegetables and fruits to give to us and promised some oranges once they came into season. They said one corner of the greenhouse produced the sweetest oranges, and everyone in the family took turns saying that was “their corner.”

Jeju farm trip

Jeju farm trip

 

Garlic and onions abound

We looked around their small storage building. There were garlic bulbs and red onions in storage and rows of yellow produce baskets stacked up. When I looked up at the roof, I noticed how unique and organic-looking the building materials were.

 

Jeju farm trip
Garlic and red onions in storage.

 

Jeju farm trip
Storage baskets for produce.
Jeju farm trip
The storage building roof.

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Don’t forget watermelon

Earlier at the house, Bokee’s sister had mentioned wanting to harvest a watermelon for us. But we became sidetracked by all the other interesting crops.

In front of another storage building, we saw the watermelon patch. They asked my husband and me to choose a watermelon. We searched around for a small one, but to no avail. They were all huge. We enjoyed the lush green of the patch with all its gigantic watermelon, so then we took some photos together with the family.

Jeju farm trip

Jeju farm trip

Jeju farm trip
Bokee’s family in front of the watermelon patch.

Jeju farm trip

Buckwheat, a big crop in Korea

As we drove to the beach, we stopped at a buckwheat field. I had never seen buckwheat plants before, and the flowers are delicate and beautiful. In Korea, they make noodles and tea from buckwheat, which is a very healthy gluten-free seed.

Jeju farm trip

Jeju farm trip
Buckwheat plant

Realigning with nature

Although the convenience of city life has its perks, I find it calming to commune with nature. I enjoy being barefoot, grounding my body. Besides the physical benefits of reconnecting with nature after being in the city for weeks, we were also excited to try the vegetables and fruit from the farm. When we ate the produce the next day, we were impressed by how incredibly fresh it tasted, even more so than produce I bought at the local markets. We shared the huge watermelon with my coworkers and ate a big portion of it ourselves, as well.

Jeju’s farms are really beautiful, and it’s farmers skillful. I enjoyed getting a more intimate look at one.

Are you interested in farming? Have you ever gardened before?


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The best part is after the week, you’ll have a finished body of work to submit to an exhibit, share on social media, or print for your walls.

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Other recent articles from the Photo Adventures series:

Exploring Jeju City’s Tiny But Novel Urban Garden Plots

A Visit to the Cattle Cart Festival Outside Yogyakarta, Indonesia