Believe it or not, Georgia is home to over fifty thousand Korean Americans, placing it in the top ten states in the country in terms of population. This is why organizations like the Korean American Farmers Association are so crucial; they provide individuals interested in agriculture with the essential information required for success.
“Since we didn’t know much about farming, we tried to take on this role as our life’s purpose. Since then, we formally organized in 2019 to reach out and educate people about USDA’s supporting programs,” says James Lee, Executive Director of the GA Korean-American Farmers Association.
Despite the name, this association is open to all, with more than half of their nearly two hundred members not being of Korean descent. It’s that all-inclusive attitude that is represented on their new operation in Barrow County.
“We thought, ‘Yes, we’ll take over the land and turn it into a farm, do all the Korean vegetables,’ and it would be a great thing to show to the neighbors here. However, our purpose keeps on growing. Our purpose is to show everybody how to coexist,” says Lee.
Thanks to a new USDA grant, their goals have expanded to provide mental health counseling and even educational classes.
“The first thing we’re going to do is create a path all over the six-point-six acres, ensuring that the elderly and disabled have full access to every part of this property. We’ll also demonstrate composting techniques and how to make the best use of the materials and support from the USDA,” says Lee.
That support extends to the University of Georgia as well, with the organization looking into some nontraditional ways of growing food on the new site.
“Recently, over the past couple of days, he called me and expressed his interest in hydroponics. Given that hydroponics primarily involves water, he asked if I could come and provide guidance on what we need to consider and how to approach a hydroponics project. It’s still in the early stages of development, but that’s the direction we’re heading in – exploring the possibility of implementing hydroponics here on the farm,” says Gary Hawkins, Water Resource Specialist at UGA.
USDA hopes this new farm will be another example of how farmers and government agencies can successfully work hand in hand.
“People often have doubts and concerns about whether the agency, especially the federal government, will provide assistance. Our aim is to reassure them and show that if one person can do it, others can too. The program and the agency are tailored to support new and beginning farmers. We offer a ninety percent car sure assistant, and all they need to do is become a valid customer with our sister agency, the Farm Service Agency,” says Terrance Rudolph, State Conservationist at NRCS.
By: Damon Jones