Friday, December 28, 2007

Boulettes recipe for Dec 22

As mentioned before, generally, Boulettes soaks our rice overnight, then cooks it with a bit of sea salt in the water. The other ingredients are added to the hot rice after cooking. All proportions are "to taste." Here is the dish served at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market on Dec. 22, 2007:

Massa Organics brown rice
apple cider vinegar
black currants
new olive oil
flax seeds

Friday, December 21, 2007

Harvest video

Way back in October, we took some video of rice harvest. Since many of our customers live in urban areas and don't see rice fields very often, we thought it would be fun to post the video on YouTube so that people could see what harvest is like. Of course, I only got around to posting the video this week!

Rice harvest is completely mechanized in the United States, and uses very large, very expensive machinery. Much of the rest of the world still harvests by hand or with small equipment. You can see some of this if you search YouTube. In our case, we use a John Deere 9760 STS with a "stripper header." When you watch the video, the header is the blue and white thing on the front of the combine. Stripper headers are a relatively new technology, which greatly improves the efficiency of harvest by stripping the grain off the plant and leaving the plant stem standing in the field. By contrast, the older style headers cut off the entire plant and feed it into the combine, which then separates grain from straw. This takes much more time and fuel.

Here's the video of the combine with a stripper header:

Here is a video of the combine dumping rice into a truck.

Here is a view from the driver's seat. It's not great quality, but you get the idea.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Boulettes Larder recipe for Dec. 15

See post from December 8 for more info about how Boulettes Larder cooks our rice.

saturday's ingredients-

black currants
extra virgin olive oil
sherry vinegar
herbs (rosemary, parsley, some people said lavender - it might have been a homemade herbs de provence, but we're not sure)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Chard Dolmas

A good customer in Chico sent us this recipe recently. He notes that it is simple and easy, and would also be good with other veggies or spices added to the rice mixture. We'd love to hear your modifications to the recipe. Enjoy!

Swiss Chard Dolmas

1 bunch Swiss chard
3 cups cooked Massa Organics brown rice, at room temperature
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dried dill
Salt and pepper

Combine rice, olive oil, vinegar and dill in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Wash and trim the stems from the Swiss chard. Bring a large kettle of water to a boil and blanch the largest whole Swiss chard leaves for about 1 minute, until just tender. Remove the leaves from the water with tongs and transfer to a large cutting board. When the chard leaves have cooled, place the leaves face down one at a time on the board and use a sharp knifeto remove the thick central spine from the leaves, about two-thirds of the way up, leaving the fan of the leaves intact. Overlap the lower halves of each leaf to form a half-inch seam.

Place two heaping tablespoons of the rice mixture in the center of each Swiss chard leaf, leaving the edges free for tucking to form the ends of the roll. Fold the lower edge of the leaf upwards around the rice, tuck in the sides and continue rollling to the upper edge. Transfer Swiss chard rolls to a baking dish and brush with olive oil. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, until rice is heated all the way through.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Sickle of Honor

A few weeks ago, we were asked by the local representative of the Pesticide Action Network if we would be willing to participate in absentia at a ceremony honoring rice farmers at PAN’s international meeting in Penang, Malaysia. They asked for a photo and two bags of rice for “symbolic international sharing.” Today Greg and I found out that we’d actually each been awarded the Sickle of Honor from PAN International. The handle of each is engraved with: “TO RAQUEL KRACH (GREG MASSA), DEFENDER OF RICE FARMERS’ RIGHTS, FROM PAN, 2007”. It was presented at their meetings earlier this month and was accepted for us by a California PAN representative. Said accepter arrived at our home this afternoon, sickles in hand. He also brought us a nice cloth bag, a Book of Rice, and a DVD of “Rice – The Life of Asia.” We’re bummed we couldn’t be there, we would have enjoyed the two Malaysian “rice harvest” dances.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Recipe from Boulettes Larder

Those of you who are lucky enough to be able to shop at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in San Francisco are probably familiar with Boulettes Larder, a fantastic food shop in the Ferry Building. And, if you have bought our rice at the market, you probably know that Boulettes makes a rice dish for us to sample each week--a new one every week. Now that we have a blog, I thought it would be a good place to post the ingredients for the weekly sample dish.

Generally, Boulettes soaks our rice overnight, then cooks it with a bit of sea salt in the water. The other ingredients are added to the hot rice after cooking. All proportions are "to taste." Here is the dish served today:

Massa Organics Brown Rice
toasted sage
black currants
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
plum vinegar


Friday, December 7, 2007

Our Strawbale House

If you’ve ever wondered why there is a house on the front of our packaging, the answer is that it’s our house. It’s a Straw bale house, that we built with the rice straw out of our fields that surround the house. This is one of the photos we gave to the illustrator when we were designing the bag. We wanted to show you that we were living with our numerous children in the middle of the fields, which is why we work so hard at farming in a safe and healthy manner.

The house has been a labor of love, and one that unlike our children, we actually birthed. We are reliving that process now because we have outgrown the original 1600 square feet we built. We started with two kids, and now have five.

Gestation begins with baling the straw, and since rice harvest is just over, we baled the straw a couple of weeks ago. Looking out over the field of bales, you start to imagine how all those individual blocks will come together, and visualize the finished project. Mostly I dream about the extra space for beds, toys, computer and piano. Maybe Daddy with even get his office back.

Having a whole lot of baled straw around is pretty fun. The kids played for hours on the big stacks over the Thanksgiving break, and we even loaded up a few on the trailer and took a “hay” ride around the farm. (We don’t have livestock, so we don’t actually grow hay.) Stay tuned for the updates on the building process. We’ve almost got the permits and contractor ready to go (we’re not doing it all ourselves this time). Sometime in the late spring or summer we’ll be having a “bale-raising”, a community building project to get the bales stacked in the walls. See you then!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Wheat crop update

Here are a few visitors to the wheat field--sandhill cranes, one of my favorite birds. They come to the farm in the fall and spend the winter with us before heading back to Canada and Alaska in the spring. They are huge birds, standing 4-5 feet tall, with 6 foot wingspans. They like to dig around in soft soil looking for invertebrates to eat. I usually don't worry about them in the fallow rice fields, but I'm a little concerned about them in my young wheat field. When the plants are small like this, it doesn't take much to uproot them. It's a tough transition to suddenly think of my winter friends as a pest!

The wheat crop has been in the ground for a couple weeks now, and even though we haven't had any rain at all, there was enough residual moisture in the soil to sprout much of it. The concern now is if there is enough moisture in the ground to keep it going until it does rain. We've had a very dry fall, and I saw several wheat fields being irrigated last week. I'd rather not have to turn on the pump, because organic wheat planted in an old conventional rice field isn't likely to have a huge yield, and I need to watch my costs very closely. Pray for rain!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Birthday at Monk's

So we meant to post this last week, and then we got the word about the special Tuesday night dinners at Monks’. So just take it as a good review…

It was my birthday last week, and usually we manage to go out to dinner and celebrate one way or another. This year we managed to arrange babysitting and had a grown-up’s night out. We’d been talking to Chef Richie at Monk’s Wine Lounge and Bistro about possible uses for our rice in his restaurant, and this was our chance to meet him and sample his art. It is so much fun to meet the people who cook with our rice, and especially chefs. Chef Richie was no exception. He made us a risotto with fresh root vegetables, and a local cheese. It was served with a chive oil and our choice of steak or chicken or shrimp. It was delicious! Most people think of brown rice as such a hippy, healthy and wholesome food, and it is, but until I had this risotto, it had never tasted so rich, and delicate. Paired with a great wine, Massa Organics brown rice made for a very sophisticated eating experience. The ambiance at Monks’ was great, and next time I’m going to go on their live jazz night. “Next time”… listen to me. We don’t get nights out like that very often so who knows when we’ll be spending four hours again in a restaurant. So, thanks to Grandma and Grandpa for babysitting, and my wonderful husband who arranged such a fabulous birthday night out.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Monk's Wine Lounge features our rice

Our newest favorite restaurant in Chico will be featuring our rice on December 4 for their monthly winemakers dinner. Chef Richie is a master with risotto, so check it out! Here's the menu:

MONK’S Wine Lounge and Bistro
128 W. 2nd St. Chico, CA 95928. (530) 343-3408

Winemaker Dinner: Tuesday December 4, 2007
(and the 1st Tuesday of every month at Monk’s)
Tonight featuring: Robert Hall Winery
Reservations Recommended
The below prices do not include tax or gratuity

Four Courses with Artisan breads and Arbequina olive oil $35
*You may order any dish a’ la carte at the below prices. The full dinner is not mandatory.
1/3 glass of four Robert Hall wines paired with each course $12
*Additional pours are also available from the wine list including more Robert Hall selections

Hors D’oeuvre $12 Wine selection: Viognier
Miller’s kamut flour, porcini, kale, toasted Coy Farm almond and brie crêpe with chive oil

Small Bowl of Soup, or Small Salad $7 Wine selection: Chardonnay
Tomato Bisque with crispy Massa brown rice and two sesames
Arugala tossed in Linda’s cranberry dressing with toasted pine nuts, a farewell
to 2007 Coy Farm pears and Pedrozo Family Dairy Black Butte Reserve cheese

Choice of Main Course $17 Wine selection: Meritage
Massa brown rice risotto with porcini, spinach, walnuts, ginger and soy glaze butter
Grilled Rocky chicken breast and roasted market vegetables over rigatoni carbonara
Grilled natural/finest quality New York steak from Chico State Farm
with potato, parsnip and Castello triple-cream Danish blue gratin, and Bordeaux glaze

Dessert $4 Wine selection: Port
Petit warm Tin Roof Bakery chocolate mousse brownie, eggnog crème anglaise,
toasted Coy Farm almonds and tangerines that Kevin and I picked this morning

Friday, November 16, 2007

different season, different crop

These are scenes we'd usually be seeing in the Spring, when it's time to plant the rice. I mentioned that we were planting a winter wheat crop on some transition land. This is where that 100 tons of compost went last week. We have a great worker, named Tony, who spent a day lightly working it into the soil with a "spring tooth". Then it was time to plant. With rice, we broadcast the seed from a crop duster onto a flooded field, but for the wheat we direct seeded. In the first photo Tony is loading the seed into the dril which he then pulls with the small tractor. The drill has a rolling metal disc that cuts a slit in the ground, and the seed drops in before the soil falls back over it. Six hours later, the 40 acres was done. Ah... mechanization. Posted by Picasa

I mentioned that this ground is in "transition". It's ground that was previously planted in conventional rice. To certify it as "organic", no chemicals can be used on it for three years. This is one of the deterrents to farming organically, because there is such a long period of the lower yields organic brings, but without the higher return on the product. A conventional crop of wheat like this would normally have the seed treated with a fungicide even before it goes in the ground. A chemical fertilizer would be added to the ground preparation before planting, and finally, a number of applications of the herbicide 2,4-D would take place over the growing season.

After planting, Mason and Lily (aka "The Babies") check to make sure the seeds were placed at the right depth. Plus they just like to play in the dirt. Who can resist a huge field of dirt to play in? Needless to say, I do a lot of laundry!

Apple brown rice stuffing recipe

For your Thanksgiving turkey:

Apple Brown Rice Stuffing

Tasty Massa Organics brown rice instead of boring white bread stuffing. Crisp apples compliment the nutty flavor of the brown rice.
1 1/2 cups brown rice, uncooked
3 1/2 cups Apple Juice, divided
1 Fuji apple, diced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup rice bran
1/3 cup slivered almonds

Prepare rice according to package directions, using 3 1/4 cup apple juice for the liquid.
Cook diced apple, chopped onion, sliced celery, raisins, poultry seasoning, thyme, and pepper in butter in a large skillet until the vegetables are tender-crisp. Stir in the cooked brown rice, bran, slivered almonds, and remaining apple juice.
Use as stuffing for poultry or pork roast, or bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.

Monday, November 12, 2007

First post!

Welcome to the Massa Organics farm/family blog. This is our first attempt at blogging and I'm not sure how we'll do, but we've so enjoyed interacting with our customers so far in this new business, and we thought the blog might bring an additional opportunity to build on these relationships.

This is Raquel, the wife/mother/daughter-in-law of the operation. I grew up in LA and before I met Greg I wasn't aware that rice was actually grown in California. Honestly, when we first met in college, I wasn't all that impressed with that part of Greg's "background", it sounded pretty hokey. And I definitely thought farming a crop that had to be grown in flooded fields was ridiculous when we all know we're living in a desert. Wow, did I have a lot to learn. But six years later, when we decided to move "home" and farm, it was (surprisingly) my idea. And here we are, 17 years later, and Greg is a brilliant farmer, and Northern California is not a desert, and organic rice farming is a beautiful beautiful thing. We want to share it with you, and hope that none of your kids will grow up as ignorant as I did.

It's November 12th, and we have just finished harvesting the rice. The combines have not yet been put away, and so they provide ample play space. Even farm kids LOVE tractors, and after "chicken", "tractor" is one of their first words. In earlier generations it was pretty common to harvest late into the fall, but not for us due to shorter-season rice varieties and bigger harvesting equipment. But it has been a pretty wet, cold fall for us, so the rice took quite a while longer to ripen. After the crazy weather, and a number of mechanical setbacks, it was big relief to see that truck full of grain pull out of our driveway on to the highway.

We have a field of 40 more acres that is officially in transition to organic production. We left it fallow this summer, but it will have a winter wheat crop on it starting next week. Today we had guys in giant trucks out there spreading 100 tons of composted cow manure on it. This field is about 200 meters from our house. Sometimes our kids have to sit on the porch for a few minutes while they are having a "time out". Mit (above, swinging wildly) took a turn out there tonight, unfortunately, but tonight he had added incentive to shape up his behavior: "Dad it smells really gross!''.

Rice for dinner tonight, of course. We hadn't had it in a few days because I'd forgotten to cook it in time. That's a complaint we get a lot, that brown rice just takes too long. So, today at about noon I remembered to put on a pot and it was ready to go in plenty of time. We often cook it with just water, but tonight it was with broth and butter. (For those who don't like it too sticky, this is a good solution.) We hope you'll share some of your favorite ways to use our rice. If we can share them that will be even better.

We're happy to answer your burning rice farming questions, so fire away.