Produced by Marie Choi
In California, 40 minutes outside of Oakland, Korean American farmer Kristyn Leach strives to grow food in a more sustainable way by adopting practices of Korean natural farming. She hopes that such practices can offer alternatives to the cycles of increased demand on production, depleted soil, and deeper debt into which more farmers are being forced. Farming has also been a big part of her process of building a connection with Korea. As a Korean adoptee raised in Long Island, Kristyn has been able to connect with her roots through her travels to Korea, where she met with farmers and learned about traditional farming techniques.
ZoominKorea contributor Marie Choi visited Namu Farm, where Kristyn is currently working, to talk about sustainable forms of agriculture that don’t exploit, disempower, or displace communities. During their interview, Kristyn talked about imagining farming in a just and equitable world:
What we know about how to farm and grow food, which seems like such an important, sacred thing, is so deeply entrenched in a type of industrial standard that has nothing to do with making sure that communities everywhere are being cared for or that people in all parts of the world have self-determination to care for their communities. Living in the U.S., especially California, which is a hub for vegetable food production, I want to grapple with the gravity of this situation.
I want to think about what place farming would have and how we would sustain farming should I suddenly wake up to the type of world I am invested in. If suddenly the world were more equitable and just, I don’t know that I’d know how to farm in that world, where suddenly I don’t have access to everything I want, whenever I want and when I don’t get to benefit from the type of resources that are available to us here at the expense of people in other places.
What does it look like to farm when we don’t have those things? What does it look like to farm in a way that aspires to hold oneself accountable to the fact that lots of people have connections to places that are being destroyed?
This sounds very grandiose on a small, one-acre farm. It’s not going to put a dent in all those major systems. But at the very least, on a personal level, it lets me think through some of these things and come at farming from a point of valuing relationships.
Listen to Kristyn’s full interview below.
For more on Kristyn Leach and Namu Farm, check out a clip from the documentary The Final Straw: