A Farmer’s View from the Field
Greg Massa, of Massa Organics, spends around 3 weeks of time harvesting his rice fields. A lot of that time is spent in the cab of a John Deere 9770 STS, affixed with a stripper header. It is well equipped inside with a control panel (a button pusher’s heaven!), a yield monitor (shows yield per acre and moisture content), and loss monitors, for starters. Sitting high above the waiting rice field, Massa gives a quick tour from his perspective.
I came across this little gem through twitter. You see, Greg Massa is one of those farmers who twitter while he works. Being limited by 140 characters or less, probably fits a busy farmer’s work schedule just fine. The tweet just said, “New video post on our blog: Rice Harvest 2009” with a link to the video on his website. No explanation, just the video. Well, I wanted to know more, so I DM’d him – and this is what I learned:
A fourth generation farmer, his great-grandfather planted the first fields of rice in 1916 – so they are coming up on 100 years of rice growing. Quite a feat, considering so many family farms have gone under or exchanged hands over the years, let alone stay in the family and continue growing the same crop.
Massa is in the process of turning all 650 acres of rice into certified organically grown rice. Currently 170 acres are certified organic, with another 60 acres being added to this for next year’s planting.
That’s a lot of rice! Where does it all go? After being harvested, the rice goes to a dryer, um, to get dried! It comes from the field with a moisture content around 20%. In order to be stored, the moisture content needs to be lowered to 12%. Here’s how Greg describes the drying process: “with heat applied, drying takes a few hours. no heat, just air blown through bin, takes a week or more. Organic: no heat.” When it’s time, it goes to the mill, where the outside hard hull is removed to reveal the brown rice beneath. The non-organic rice goes to the commodity market and is co-mingled with rice from other growers.
The certified organic brown rice is packaged with the Massa Organics label and is direct marketed to restaurants and schools. In addition he sells the 2 pound and 20 pound packages at 12 regional farmers markets (in Northern California), where he gets to meet and talk to the actual buyer and eater.
Really, I don’t know where he finds the time to twitter, but I’m glad he does!