Farm Experience Programs at the Buraemi Village in Icheon  open the window of AOD


It’s a warm spring morning when the sun is shining brightly on the dirt country road. This is an ordinary village in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province. The vehicles that had rushed through the dusty road have arrived in the region. Family members quickly hop out the cars with excitement. Soon, the quiet village is crowded with visitors from the city.

I’ve been here every year with other families for the last three years. Since we live in the city, we only read about rural life in books - didn’t have a chance to experience the regional area. Even my hometown isn’t like the countryside anymore. Everyone seemed to like it here and to experience the country life. I also used to live in the rural area.

Only visitors to this farm village are aware that the attractions in the hamlet are the vast farmlands and the simple spring flower fields. This old village is like one’s hometown. There’s a sense of warmth every time you visit and revisit the area. Therefore, the “Buraemi Village” in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, is again packed with city dwellers on this spring day.

It’s uncommon to find an underdeveloped town in the suburban area near the capital that can be reached within an hour’s drive. But thanks to the slow development, the village was able to preserve the typical cozy and peaceful countryside scenery. This agricultural region is famous for its intact “natural environment.” Here is Lee Gi-yeol, the head of the Buraemi Village.

A total of 70 residents in 28 households are living in this village. It’s a non-developed, humble village. The farm experience programs are in their eighth year. Since people in our town are from the same clan, villagers cooperate well with each other. We also help each other out even during hard times.

Thanks to the adequate climate and fertile soil, the villagers united and agreed to maintain and present the farm village as it is. That’s how the “Farm Experience Programs” were developed and spread by word of mouth. The programs are now popular among city dwellers. Here is Lee Sang-taek, who is in charge of general affairs in the town.

About 28-thousand people visited the village last year. Most are regulars. Some even come several times a year. Nearly 30-to-40 percent are revisits. Farm experience programs are very popular, particularly the harvesting experience.

The village is famous for its diverse hands-on programs. The hamlet has always made the top five among villages nationwide offering various experience programs for people. In addition to eco-friendly farming, the residents have developed seasonal farm experience programs that have become the principle source of hard money in the town. The instructors in charge of the programs are senior villagers.

The villagers develop a farming plan so that their program won’t overlap – planting different fruits or vegetables from strawberries and tomatoes to corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Those who can’t engage in farming raise eels or some even run a sledge park during winter. In case of an old lady living alone, she plants sweet potatoes and we help her harvest and share the produce.

Everyone in this village, regardless of where they are from, is smiling. Let’s travel to Icheon to join the popular “Buraemi Village Farm Experience” programs. The first venue greeting the visitors at the entrance of the village is the tranquil wild flower farm.

The spring flower garden in full display under the warm sunlight reminds tourists of a well-managed arboretum. The spring field is covered by wild flowers in diverse shapes and colors that are hard to find in the city and even in the countryside. Mothers and children are captivated by the sweet fragrance of the spring blossoms.

This farm specializes in wild flowers. There are about 600 of them. Now you will have to transfer this fleshy plant into the flower pot. Do you know what fleshy plants are? It means the plant is pulpy.

After a brief explanation from the wild flower instructor, everyone receives a small flower pot. Today’s mission is to plant a wild flower. Lee Jong-pil in charge of the hands-on horticulture programs explains.

This is originally a wild flower farm, so people can plant new wild flowers in the pots every season. These days, children and adults only know about bright and gorgeous flowers. They don’t get a chance to see the wild flowers that bloom in spring. They also don’t know the feeling of touching soil which is so soft and good.

A mother and a child with a handful of earth put the dirt in the flowerpots and began to transfer a sapling. They looked as if they finally realized the great smell of earth that they didn’t know before.

Usually, we visit the nearby park, but since we can’t fully experience nature in Seoul, I hoped to give the children a chance to learn about nature. They could see a real dandelion, which they’d only learned about in a book. I hope they remember what they have seen and experienced here. The memories will make them happy in their lives.

With additional seedlings offered from the generous ladies in the village, visitors gradually began to engross themselves in the exciting programs in the countryside. Meanwhile, another active farm experience program is underway making pounding sounds. Now moms and dads who have touched the dirt in the previous program are holding thick hammer-like sticks in their hands. Lee Gi-yeol in charge of rice-cake mallet pounding program explains.

This is the “rice-cake mallet pounding program”, so we pound steamed glutinous rice freshly harvested from Icheon into rice cake. Rice-cake made by conventional pounding is tastier than those made by machine. So here people try making rice cake and sprinkle it with bean powder.

It’s harder than it looks to pound the steamy rice-cake mallet with a hammer-like stick called “ddeokme.” As they pound the rice cake and feel its stickiness, people can’t wait to savor the taste. Soon a pounding competition flares up between two tourists as their family members cheer alongside. The freshly made sticky rice mallet is coated with the savory, yellowish bean powder and is now called “injeolmi”, a representative rice cake.

Now children who didn’t think they liked the glutinous rice cake ask for more. Visitors’ clothes and mouths are now coated with the soft bean powder. But they don’t mind the mess because they’re starting to appreciate this new taste they hadn’t truly understood before. Children who want to give it a try again are already lined up in a long queue.

- It’s really delicious. It was great because I got to spend time with my children.
- Since we could experience it together on the weekend, it was a meaningful time for the children. They have eaten the rice cake before but have never tried making any. It was a great time for the children and me.

Visitors stuffed with organic “slow food” head toward the sturdy greenhouses. They wonder about the sweet smell.

The strawberries you will pick are from Korea. And children should have more than three. How many? Three. I’ll check it later.

Children are told to have more than three berries, otherwise, they won’t be allowed to go home. After attending a brief lesson about the varieties of strawberries and instructions on how to pick them, participants finally jump at the opportunity to enjoy the most popular program.

Inside the well-organized greenhouse appear the furrows in long straight lines. Bright red strawberries attached to the vines and leaves stimulate appetites among the eager young participants. Here is Ha Seon-hui in charge of the strawberry experience program.

Some children said that they thought strawberries were produced at the grocery. So, coming out here and actually seeing and understanding how strawberries are grown has an educational effect. Some come by chance at first, but afterwards, they return for at least four years. First they come because they like it, then they invite their friends, then their parents and then their parents-in-law.

For some young moms and dads, it’s also their first time to see the strawberry fields. The taste of organically-grown strawberries picked and popped in one’s mouth at the spot is indescribably sweet and succulent.

I saw it on TV and was curious about it. But now that I’ve come here, it seems like there are more than enough of strawberries even after we had a lot them. I hope to come again. Since I get to pick and eat them, they are sweeter.

People in the greenhouse are busy picking more strawberries for family members who couldn’t join them. Those from the city who want to grow the berries at home even buy the saplings for a reasonable price.

We have a vegetable garden, so we will plant it there. It’s great that here we can experience what we couldn’t at home. They will also remember what they have tried since we have taken pictures and we are also taking flowerpots with strawberry saplings home. I want to come again.

Meanwhile, in the warmer afternoon, visitors arrive at the venue where they can learn something unique from the older villagers. Here is Lee Sang-ok in charge of straw handicrafts.

We hoped to show visitors how people lived in the old days by doing the straw handicrafts. It’s not a big deal for residents in the countryside, but for the city dwellers, they have never tried it. Experiencing is learning. This straw is used to make egg-holders. I’ll demonstrate how to make one.

When a senior resident starts to twist dry straws with his dexterous hands, in no time, a perfect egg-holder was created. This is the genuine hands-on straw handicraft program. Although visitors try their best to follow instructions, it’s much more difficult to safely hold the eggs inside the straw egg-holder than it looks. Mom and dad can’t help give a sheepish smile for their not-so-satisfactory craftwork. Nevertheless, despite the unshapely result, it’s the first straw egg-holder they had ever made.

The sound of children romping around seems to radiate a warmer feeling than the spring sunlight. The innocent and warm-hearted villagers make the farm experiences more memorable for the delighted visitors.

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