Residents of Closed Mining Town Find New Hope in the Rural Convergence Industry
Public Relations Division
The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (Minister Chung Hwang-keun, MAFRA) announced the Chief Executive Officer Kim Kwan-gu of “Jungsun Blueberry Cooperative” (Jungsun Blueberry) in Jungsun-gun, Gangwon-do as the Winner of Rural Convergence Industry Farmer of the Month (November).
Residents of Jungsun-gun who lost their job after mine closure established a cooperative in 2013 and produced organic blueberries. Jungsun Blueberry developed various processed products using blueberries, and operated experience programs based on natural resources of the local community. It was highly appreciated by the evaluation team for finding a new opportunity in the rural convergence industry.
Jungsun Blueberry is a representative of Jungsun-gun and a management body of the rural convergence industry. First, it supplies seven tons of organic blueberries annually through self-production (four tons, 2021) and contract cultivation (three tons) with four local farmers. Second, it produces processed foods such as blueberry juice, blueberry Nurungji (Korean scorched rice), blueberry honey, and blueberry powder. Third, the business sells them while operating experience programs such as harvesting blueberries and making blueberry jam.
* Annual sales/Visitors for experience programs: (2019) KRW 102.7 million /1,500 visitors → (2020) KRW 77.7 million /470 visitors → (2021) KRW 113.6 million /600 visitors
In 2008, residents of seven former mining towns didn’t know much about farming, but decided to grow blueberries, which were recommended as income crops by Gangwon-do, the local government under their jurisdiction at the time. In Unchi-ri*, a remote village 700m above sea level, the new farmers from Eups and Meons of Jungsun-gun began producing organic blueberries with hard flesh and high sugar content.
After 4 years of research and development, Jungsun Blueberry developed “blueberry honey” containing a large amount of polyphenols, an antioxidant, and obtained a patent in 2017. In addition, it makes continuous efforts diversifying their sales channels such as online live broadcasting and crowdfunding.
As harvesting period for blueberries is short, harvesting experiences are only possible for three to four months a year. Jungsun Blueberry fills the gap with other experience programs that utilize the open sky and natural environment of farms, such as a farm party, stargazing, and drone flight.
CEO Kim Kwan-gu said, “We simply began growing blueberries. For the blueberries to create added values, we decided to develop processed foods. One day, we randomly met lovely kids from a kindergarten who visited our town and came up with an experience program to enjoy with the children. Later, we found that it is the sixth industry,” adding that “we strive to contribute to vitalizing the rural convergence industry in the local community. To this end, we will resume blueberry experience programs which were suspended due to COVID-19 and make continuous efforts introducing new products.”
Director Choi Jeong-mi of the Rural Industry Division of MAFRA said, "Jungsun Blueberry Pine is an exemplary management body of the rural convergence industry which overcomes the decline of closed mining towns by joining forces with the local community,” stressing that “Moving forward, MAFRA plans to continuously explore good management bodies that grow together with the rural areas and contribute to strengthen farm management and create jobs by stimulating local economies.”