A Mother’s Plea to Keep Her Farm Running

[birds chirping]

[calm music]

[bees buzzing]

[Nevia] My mom was embarrassed for many years

to tell her friends what her daughter does.

Whenever, you know, how mothers like,

what do your kids do?

She’s too embarrassed to say that my daughter is a farmer.

[slow violin music]

[Nevia] When I first saw this land

I fell in love in five minutes.

Since I don’t really come from farming background,

I knew it was gonna be difficult.

My degree is in dance and classical voice.

Then I happened to meet a farmer,

and I fell in love with that style of life.

I finally decided I really want a farm of my own

where I could grow and put my hands on the land, myself.

I applied to many banks,

no one was interested in giving me the mortgage.

So I asked a realtor, where is this owner living?

He says, oh, right next door.

So I walked through the woods and knocked on his house.

Can I have a word with you?

I have not really farmed,

but I could sell produce really well.

Can you hold a mortgage and give me your land?

I will pay you back everything in three years.

And as I promised, I paid everything back in three years.


Yeah, but I had to work 20 hours a day to do that.

I spent all my sweat and tears and blood on this land.

I don’t wanna just sell it to another commercial farmer.

So hopefully one of my kids would take it over

and give it to their children.

[leaves rustling]

We have a little gift for everyone.

Little home made kimchi.

Thank you so much. Made by grandma.

I have three children.

Unfortunately, two of them

are not interested in farming at all.

My second child has been helping me

since COVID for first time.

[upbeat music]

Koreans don’t stray from tradition.

You don’t question the way things are.

You just do it and you carry that on.

I am sort of seen as

the black sheep I suppose, in my family.

Stop stepping on everything!

It’s like Easter.

[speaking Korean]

[Euni] Farming last season for me

was the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.

While I appreciate it, while I understand it,

while I feel like I could school anybody on it.

It’s not something that I think I can honestly take on.


Why are you cleaning already?

I have to make a mess again.

Yes, but you clean as you go, no?

Because isn’t it nice that you’re going to

go sit on a clean table now?

Well, see, my chaos has order.

So if you move my things, then I get lost.

Yeah, same with my room.

My mom doesn’t like new things.

Especially when it has to do with technology.

She’s very emotionally driven when it comes to farming.

So we don’t put anything on paper really.

So I’m hoping that I can create a system

that’s easy for her to follow.

Because as of last year,

she replanted the same beds like six times.

I think I’m a born fighter.

My mom, she is a fighter.

And I think it has to do with where we are from.

We are originally from North Korea.

They came down before the country was actually divided.

They heard the news.

So they fled the north part.

Many generations,

we have been in the food industry.

My mother and grandparents used to own

one of the largest restaurants back in Korea

in 60’s and 70’s.

Food was always huge part of our family.

But not farming though.

They sent me when I was 13,

and my nine year old brother to this country.

Because they wanted us to be educated

in a politically safer environment.

Characteristically, we have that very Northern traits.

Strong women.

[Euni] Hello, happy New Year!

[speaking Korean]

She’s gonna yell at me

for being slow in about three seconds.

[speaking Korean]

Oh man, did you see that?

That’s a boss move.

[speaking Korean]

[Euni] She said you’re eating that one.

Jake says, I sound like you when I come in the apartment.


[food sizzling]

[speaking Korean]

[Euni] Because originally they were.

I mean, if you guys are going to do this with me

for many, many years, I would build the kitchen on the farm

to do whatever value–

[Euni] We’re not going to do this for many years.

I know, so that’s why I’m not building one.

[plastic bag rustling]

I just feel like I’ve known how to do this

since I was a kid.

I didn’t grow up with my mom

but I would come visit her.

My mom and my dad separated when I was 11 months.

My dad basically said that he was going to be

taking the kids because he had the job.

He had the stability and that she had nothing

and she wouldn’t have been able to take care of us.

My dad wanted nothing to do with Korean culture.

Don’t speak Korean, nothing Korean.

So that was my life in Maryland until I was 12 or 13.

Ever since then, I’ve sort of just been on my own.

The fact that my mom let her kids go

I saw her as very weak.

Why did my mom abandon me?

Why did she leave me?

Why didn’t she fight for me?

How could she let me go?

It’s gonna go into two bags though.

So I was convinced that if I learned what she was doing,

it would bring us closer.

And it would help create a better relationship with her.

I picked up a lot of the understanding of farming

through wanting to spend time with her.

Can you start a marijuana plant for me?

Go talk to the Chinese farmer.

But if I get you the seeds, can you start them for me?

I’m going to walk away, bye mom.

Bye mom.

[sewing machine rumbling]

I’ve used all our old curtains

and bedspreads already to make all my clothing.

So I have no more bedspreads and old curtains.

I think it’s done.


I wanted to be a dancer.

But I wasn’t allowed to dance.

In Asia, back in olden days,

anything that’s performing art was for Geishas.

To entertain men.

So for me to dance, to entertain others,

was not acceptable.

[drumming on bowl]

I do see my personality as a performer and a grower.

I see this whole farm as my stage.

This is my stage where I perform.

[birds chirping]

We’ve been waiting for non freezing night

for a whole week and a half right now.

Anything could happen between now and the harvesting season.

There’s no guarantee.

And this is a total gamble that we all farmers have to take.

Did you make these trenches?

You’re genius.

Such a good idea.

95, but you also just did this.

You did a lot of hard work at one time.

You’re not bringing that over there.

Mom, you’re like,

so old.


So we are gonna do this three times in season.

[Euni] Should we mark it down?

No it’s- I’ll write it down somewhere

where we did this today on the calendar.

It’s all in my head.

That’s not how we’re doing this year, uh uh.

I’m not coming on your emotional roller coaster

with you this year of when to do something or not.

[speaking Spanish]

[plastic rustling]

Should I do one more parsley?

At least three parsley.

‘Cause they’re not all going to make it.

[Euni] She keeps me letting me run this part of the farm.

And letting me do the herbs and make my own money.

So I have 20 different herbs this year.

I think I’m in over my head.

So you could tell about people’s personality

by how they work, how they move.

You could tell a lot about them by way they–

What do you think my personality is, mom?

[Nevia] Huh?

What, what do you think I am based on my movements?

You know, certain things

you have to keep that as a no comment.

[birds chirping]

[engine rumbling]

Yeah, I just spoke to a farmer from upstate yesterday.

He says at night where he is,

it’s about two and a half hours north of New York.

Still going down to 23 at night.

Oh no. Yeah.

The middle of our entire production there are

a lot of times where I just wanna get away from the work.

But there’s really no place where I could quietly go

and sit down and take a break.

[water running]

So many times a day,

oh my god, I just feel like crying.

This is too overwhelming, too much to do,

and I only have one body.

I just wanna collapse and cry.

You can’t, ’cause I’m the boss,

I’m the leader here.

I can’t let anyone see me crying.

[thunder rumbling]

[wind rustling]

[birds chirping]

These were all I needed.

This is the only thing I needed to live.

And nobody watered it.

We watered four times today, Euni.

Well then nobody sees, bone dry.

It will perk up. No, half of it is dead.

It will work out.

Mom, look at the middle!

Yeah, it will perk up.

Just, it’s still dry.

You didn’t water.

I did water. You didn’t water.

It still dry, so give more water.

This is literally the only thing I needed the most.

Okay, next time you buy something,

take care of your own plants.

Great. Thanks, cool.

Thanks for the heads up.

Loss in this business is part of the production.

We can’t always gain, gain, gain.

Which is a difficult concept for a lot of people.

And I understand, loss comes with gain.

[relaxing instrumental music begins]

What got me through all those difficult years,

responsibility as the head of the household.

I have my mother and three kids and people who work for me.

That responsibility kept me awake all night.

But now thinking back, maybe I needed those to be here now.

[Euni] I think my mom has sacrificed

a lot of her wellbeing.

Her family and her body and her mental health

for this career that she has.

I definitely look up to her

for what she is and her strength now.

I just hope I’m successful as she was.

[relaxing instrumental music continues]

I know it’s not forever.

I know my mom doesn’t plan on doing this

for too much longer.

Well physically, I don’t think she can.

And so at least I know that I had a part

of this vision with her and for her.

I’m proud of myself.

Which is not something that I really grew up with.

It’s nice to do something that other people appreciate.

You’re growing plants.

And you get to see what happens to those plants.

I feel rewarded because I see my blood, sweat and tears

going into something that other people are enjoying.

I think food always has to be

a very central part of what I end up doing.

[birds chirping]

[food sizzling]

[string instrument playing]

[singing in foreign language]

[Nevia] Any relationships have their own difficulties.

Same with mother and daughter.

So there are hardships.

There are momentary turbulences.

[singing in foreign language continues]

My true hope for Euni,

that she takes over the farm from me.

She’ll run the farm her own way.

Which is fine.

It doesn’t have to be my way.

I hope she understands that someday.

[singing in foreign language continues]


[relaxing instrumental music]

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