Intelligentsia is a student-led organization that pursues the goal of making the world a better place through city agriculture.
The name “Intelligentsia” comes from the Latin word, which means a group of intellectuals who lead changes to improve society. The group was initially established by Sim Hong-sup (Korea University, 3), who recognized the need for society’s young intellectuals to fulfill their social obligations. His deep interest in farming and nature led him to connect that need with his interest and found Intelligentsia.
“Personally, my parents have helped me experience nature through weekly family trips and weekend farms since I was very young,” said Sim, the president of Intelligentsia. “Those natural experiences furnished me with a healthy mind as well as body. I wanted to spread those values on campus and share them with other university students.”
Founded in March 2012, Intelligentsia has around 30 members who regularly meet during the week to cultivate crops through organic farming. All of its works take place in Seoul, wherever they find spare fields. The members are divided into several teams in order to care for the land more efficiently.
Intelligentsia’s main aim is to support poor households by donating all of its yields and proceeds it earns from selling its products to ordinary people. Not only are edible crops such as lettuce or tomatoes included, but also beautiful flowers and medical herbs are included in their harvests as well.
“We try to organize various events rather than limit ourselves to mere donations or sales,” Sim said. “Last winter, we made kimchi with our own cabbages. We struggled as there were about 300 heads of cabbages, but somehow we succeeded and safely delivered them to low income households.”
Intelligentsia also strives to enlighten ordinary people about the importance of organic farming and saving the environment. The members themselves are influenced by the environment-friendly spirit as well.
“Some of the members are vegetarians and even those who are not also try their best to adopt healthy eating habits,” Sim said. “When we went to a Membership Training for fun, we brought our own chopsticks and mug cups instead of using disposable products. Such efforts can be inconvenient, but all of us are truly supportive of this kind of movements.”
Despite their affection and attention toward Intelligentsia, the members often face obstacles during the procedure. As the entire farm work is cultivated purely by their hands, paying attention to every minor detail in farming sometimes comes as really difficult for average university students. The weather condition is especially one of the critical aspects they must constantly watch out for.
“Last year when the storm ‘Bolaven’ struck, we had to go out to the fields and cover up all the crops so that they would not be ruined,” Sim said. “In addition, the burning heat of the summer is another painful hardship of farming.”
It has now been over a year since Intelligentsia’s foundation. By successfully adopting farming as a tool of donation, Intelligentsia further plans to enlarge its scale and maintain its position as a well-known student organization that devotes itself to public interests rather than private ones.
“As university students, we try our best to practice noblesse oblige, reaching our hands as far as we can for those in need,” Sim said. “Just like a tiny seed growing into a surprisingly large lettuce, Intelligentsia will one day become a significant organization that supports socially disadvantaged people.”