Thursday, June 23, 2011

How Should We See Our Farms?

A guest columnist  in the Catholic Times mentions that in his years of attending Mass and hearing numerous sermons, only recently has he heard a pastor asking for volunteers to help the orchard farmers. Many of the farmers are getting older and leaving the farms, and few are taking their place. But perhaps the most important issue is the lack of concern for the  plight of the farmers by the rest of society. The pastor asking  the parishioners to volunteer their services moved the columnist to write about the problem, no doubt because he is  a professor of horticulture.

This farming problem is not a recent phenomenon but goes back many years, and is getting more serious with the passage of time. Today, one of three workers on the farms is over 65 years old. If this continues, he says, in 10 years it will be a mortal blow to farming. Getting the government to be concerned is important, but the writer feels that getting our citizens concerned about the problem is more important.

The columnist has lived outside the country for many years, associating with many who teach horticulture and meeting many farmers. They all found  satisfaction in what they were doing. He mentions the beautiful scenes we see on calendars, depicting idyllic farms at the base of the alps. These farmers have a great love for their mountains and streams and pride in what they are doing.

Farming is an industry whose core ethic, of course, is the sustenance of life. And yet the mass media whenever it speaks of the farming community almost invariably sees the negative aspects: the anxiety of the farmers facing foreign imports, the foot and mouth disease, the dismay of  livestock farmers, the sharp drop of farm prices, farmers  refusing  to harvest their cabbage crop, the polluting of our rivers, among many other troubling issues. Though this is not all that can be said about our farms, this negativity is what is  left with the public.

The government has made efforts to help Korea compete with the rest of the world because of the Uruguay Round Agreement. These efforts, he says, have failed despite the money that was invested. The Free Trade Agreement will also be a problem for the Korean farmers in not acknowledging the  decrease of the farming population and the aging of the farmers.

Japan passed through this predicament a few years ago. Looking at  satellite pictures of the Japanese farm lands, one can readily see the cultivated land overrun with bamboo and other trees. In its place big business has acquired land overseas that is 40 times what Korea has acquired and three times their own cultivated land. As a result, the Japanese increased the amount of food they could  produce. In Korea, we are only able to produce 25 percent of the grains needed.

God has given us our farming areas as our vegetable gardens, the professor says, and this should be uppermost in our thoughts. Measures to preserve and develop them, he counsels, should be our concern and duty.

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