Dream fulfilled: local rice

November 1, 2010 at 9:17 pm 3 comments

By Dee Reid

Edible Earthscapes Koshihikari sparkles. Photo by Tami Schwerin.

Tonight’s stir-fry was extra special, with sauteed organic chicken, local onions, and the first sweet potato fresh from my fall garden. But the best ingredient of all was the rice:  Koshihikari, a primo Japanese rice grown at Edible Earthscapes, only five miles from my kitchen table. I’m calling it Moncure Koshihikari.

That’s right, chemical-free, whole-grain brown rice sown and harvested here on the sustainable-ag side of North Carolina’s Triangle.

The rice was perfectly moist and sticky with a rich nutty flavor.  It absorbed liquid beautifully, which makes me think it might be perfect for a sweet potato risotto this week-end.

Jason and Haruka Oatis have been dreaming of growing rice commercially on their small farm near Moncure, since they moved here from Japan three years ago. They began with a test project on a low lying corner of their one-acre field of vegetables, flowers, herbs and chickens.

It was hard work, yielding a small but impressive harvest last year, which they shared with friends.  They were then ready to expand the rice operation, with a lot of help from friends and strangers, and a grant from the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI)’s Tobacco Reinvestment Fund. This past spring they planted a full acre of rice on  sloped property they had painstakingly terraced adjacent to their CSA field.

Jason and Haruka fulfilled their dream this fall when they harvested 150 pounds of sustainably grown local rice and bagged it up for sale this past week-end.

It took a village to grow this nutritious food. Last Spring, Crop Mob showed up with 100 volunteers who worked barefoot in the mud, shoveling manure into the paddies, leveling them out, and filling them with just enough water to keep them wet. The Mobsters got a week’s worth of work done in a day, though it would still be weeks more before the paddies were completed and the rice seeds could be sown.

Jason and Haruka got a hand from another friend, who helped with a backhoe to build a rain catchment pond in the forest above the rice paddies. The pond could hold up to 100,000 gallons of water, which could be released as needed via a drain in the dam and gravity flow to keep the paddies flooded.

After the seeds were sown and harvested, they still had to be thrashed and hulled. Bobby Tucker at Okfuskee Farm near Siler City offered up his combine and helped thrash the crop. Finally, Edible Earthscapes acquired a small-scale hulling machine from Japan to remove the tight hulls from the grains. After two passes through the huller, the rice was ready for sale at the farm on Saturday.

“We hope this is the beginning of something,” Jason said as grateful customers lined up to fill their bags with local rice.  Jason expects they will be able to increase their yield over time.  “One day we hope we can fill much larger orders and that others will want to do this as well.”

We hope so, too.

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Entry filed under: Sustainable Farming. Tags: , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. edibleearthscape  |  November 1, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Your dinner sounds great and glad your rice turned out well. Don’t you love the smell of rice cooking? It’s the best part. Sweet potato risotto sounds wonderful too. Thanks for writing this entry!

    Reply
    • 2. Dee  |  November 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

      This really is the tastiest rice I’ve ever had, and even more special because it was grown by friends in my own community! It doesn’t get much better than that, so thank YOU!

      Reply
  • 3. Working for peanuts « sustainable grub  |  January 23, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    […] our CSA boxes. In addition to greens, peanuts and dozens of other vegetables, they also grow rice and beans, which really excites me. Complete protein, right next door! In terms of self reliance, […]

    Reply

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