Interview with a 2022 Tractor Donation Program recipient
#3. Growing into a skilled farmer who shares their expertise! - Jaegeun Kim
TYM has been donating tractors to young farmers since 2020 to help them stabilize their agricultural operations and prosper in rural areas. In 2023, sixteen young farmers across eight regions received tractors, and we had the opportunity to meet and speak with the next-generation of agricultural leaders empowered by TYM's tractor donations.
Jaegeun Lee a farmer who runs a strawberry farm in Wanju, North Jeolla Province, used to live in the city. After years of urban living, he began dreaming of returning to farming. So he began preparing by taking agriculture classes and searching for regions to settle. Four years later, he is now realizing his dream of transitioning to a professional farmer in Wanju. He likens his personal transformation to that of strawberries, a summer berry that has gained popularity as a winter produce in Korea.
Jaegeun Lee receiving his TYM TE48 tractor at TYM's North Jeolla regional office
“My name is Jaegeun Lee and I have been living my dream of being a farmer for six years in a picturesque countryside where the value of hard work is immeasurable.”
Q. Congratulations on being selected for the 2022 TYM Young Farmers Tractor Donation Program! Please introduce yourself.
Hello! My name is Lee Jae-geun, and I settled in Wanju after deciding to return to farming because I love nature. I received over 600 hours of agricultural education and started farming at a residential farming center in 2019. Since then, I have been cultivating strawberries and expanding my farm.
As the scale of my farming operation grew, I began to feel the need for a tractor. Then, I heard about the TYM Young Farmers Tractor Donation Program. I am very grateful and happy to have been selected as one of the final 16 recipients this year. I will use the donated tractor with great appreciation.
Q. Why did you choose to settle in Wanju?
As someone who ran a small business in Seoul, I had no connection to Wanju. While living in the city, I nurtured my dream of returning to farming, finding solace in the small parks between buildings. During my agricultural education at Jeonbuk Support Center for returning to the Farm and Rural, I became interested in moving to Wanju. This quaint area is where the plains and mountains meet, is close to Jeonju. and offers the benefits of both rural and urban life.
To familiarize myself with Wanju, I participated in an education program hosted by the Wanju Support Center for returning to the Farm and Rural. There, I learned about the friendly policies towards rural resettlement and the revitalization of local food. Seeing the land and learning of these policies helped me make up my mind and I decided to commit to settling in Wanju.
After being selected for a Young Farmer Grant in 2021, I became a full-time farmer. Only then I realized how difficult but rewarding farming truly is. I often spoke with my parents about the gratifying hard work and beauty of the countryside, and my parents eventually decided to move to Wanju as well. Now, my entire family has settled in Wanju.
“I want to become a skilled farmer who shares their knowledge with new farmers.”
Q. Do you grow any other crops other than strawberries?
Strawberries are our main crop which we grow across a total of nine greenhouses. Initially, we started with two leased greenhouses, but with our efforts and the support we received, we were able to expand to our current size. In addition, we also cultivate field corn and Italian ryegrass for feed. We plan to grow rice and beans next year.
Q. What are your plans for the donated tractor?
A tractor is essential in commercial agriculture. Rotary work, plowing, and ridging are all crucial tasks in strawberry farming. Since the rainy season overlaps with the strawberry growing season, it is important to keep to an exact schedule.
Expanding commercial agriculture operations is almost impossible without a tractor. Now that I have the TYM tractor, it seems that I have all the essential requirements to be called a professional farmer. With its support, I will continue to grow my farm in the future.
Q. What is your dream as a farmer?
My first dream is to fully establish myself as a professional farmer. Since I had lived in Seoul all my life, I have had many difficulties in my new life in Wanju. To address this issue, I have pursued further education in agriculture through Korea National Open University, where I am currently enrolled as a first-year student and proudly serving as the student representative of the Agricultural Science and Technology Department.
Now that I am expanding my agricultural academic education and have the requirements for professional farming, I will continue to accumulate knowledge and expertise and become an industry expert.
The second is that I want to contribute to helping new farmers who are experiencing the same difficulties I faced when I first began my new farming career. I was able to succeed thanks to the friendly help of my neighbors during my early days, and I now want to give back.
I also want to participate in the of the National Young Farmers Association’s Bean-Wheat 2-Crop Project. It is a project where association members grow beans to market them under one brand. As a young farmer with experience, I hope to help my colleague with this project.
TYM continues to support the growth of the agricultural industry for younger generations, and the revitalization of rural areas. Further, TYM pledges its efforts to contribute to the development of local communities through its support programs, creating a virtuous cycle of socially positive contributions.