Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rising from the ashes...


As you might remember, we lost half of our wheat crop to a fire in June. We harvested the other half, had it cleaned and bagged, and today, nine months of work came together for us in two loaves of sourdough bread! Our friend Dave Miller of Miller's Bakehouse in Yankee Hill, CA ground some of our wheat to flour and baked some bread with it. It is so much fun to taste great bread made with wheat that you planted, tended and harvested.

Look for wheat to appear at our farmers market booths soon, as well as on our website. And maybe if I can convince Dave to grind it for us, we'll have flour too!
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

How to cook brown rice

We've had a couple requests for basic cooking instructions, and really, I should have posted them here long ago. I'll cover several methods, and you can choose which one you like.

1. Directions on package: Rinse rice and drain. Combine 2 parts water with one part rice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cover. Cook approximately 45 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Let stand for a few minutes, then fluff with fork and serve. **This method works best with small amounts of rice (a cup or two). For larger amounts of rice, you might like to drop the water down to 1 3/4 parts water to 1 part rice. In our rice cooker, we use less water than 2:1.

2. The finger method: Rinse rice and drain. Place desired amount of rice in saucepan and add water. The correct amount of water is reached when you touch the rice with the tip of your index finger, and the water level rises to your first knuckle. I'm told this is the method people in Japan use. *This method seems accurate for almost any quantity of rice, at least for my fingers! Also works well in our rice cooker.

3. The Saveur Magazine method: When Saveur featured our rice in the May 2008 issue, they kindly included this unique method, which many of our customers have described as an epiphany in cooking brown rice. Here it is, adapted from the Saveur website:

1 cup Massa Organics brown rice
Kosher salt, to taste

1. Rinse rice in a strainer under cold running water for 30 seconds. Bring 12 cups water to a boil in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid over high heat. Add the rice, stir it once, and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Pour the rice into a strainer over the sink.

2. Let the rice drain for 10 seconds, then return it to the pot, off the heat. Cover the pot and set it aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes. Uncover the rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt.

This recipe was first published in Saveur in Issue #111

Sunday, July 13, 2008

First Post on

In preparation for Slow Food Nation, held in San Francisco over Labor Day weekend, I've been asked to guest blog for Culinate on the basics of rice farming. My first post went up this week, and with permission from my Culinate editor, here it is (but please also visit their site!).
Rice dream
What rice farming is really like
By Greg Massa
July 10, 2008

Most people in the U.S. don’t realize it, but rice is the most important food crop in the world.

Two-thirds of the world’s population (more than 4 billion people) eat rice every day, and for too many people, a bowl of rice will be their only meal. Global rice production totals more than 400 million tons, much of it consumed within just a few miles of where it was grown.

The exception to this local consumption of rice is the United States, where half of the crop is exported and the largest purchaser of rice is Anhauser-Busch, the maker of Budweiser beer.

U.S. rice is a globally traded commodity, and most rice farmers have no idea what happens to their rice once it leaves their fields. The grains get commingled with rice from other farmers, with no thought as to whose rice might actually taste good.

As a commodity, rice prices tend to be so low that farmers make just enough to keep farming another year. With little profit and no connection to people who actually eat rice, it is a very unsatisfying way to farm.

This is the world of rice farming that I have known since I was a kid. I’m the fourth generation of my family to grow rice in California — a 92-year-long string of rice crops. The system of rice growing and marketing that I grew up with turned me off of farming, and my wife, Raquel, and I actually worked as tropical biologists in Costa Rica for about five years before returning to the farm.

What drew us back were the opportunities for hands-on conservation and social work that farming provided. We are converting more and more of our family’s farm to organic farming methods, while also raising our five children (all were adopted, three of them from foster care).

The biggest change we have made in the way our farm operates is to actually take responsibility for the marketing as well as the production of our crop. This is a highly unusual thing for a commodity farmer to do. Most farmers do well with production but let large grain corporations handle the marketing; the farmers end up taking whatever price they’re offered for their crops. This is not a strategy for staying in business long-term, so for the last two years, we’ve been direct-marketing our organic brown rice through farmers’ markets, restaurants, schools, and hospitals.

As far as I know, we are the only rice farmers in the country to sell rice at farmers’ markets. The monetary return is better, but the most positive aspect of the way we market is the connection that our farm now has to our community in northern California. Where once we had no idea whether our rice ended up in a can of beer or got put on a ship headed for Japan, we now have people calling our cell phones asking for tips on the best way to cook our rice.

It is a powerful experience the first time someone tells you their kids loved the rice they had for dinner last night, and that yours is the only rice they will buy from now on.

Direct marketing has been a powerful tool for us. We are now free to focus our efforts on growing great-tasting rice, rather than just high yields. Our kids have a more tangible understanding of what we do, and are proud that their pictures adorn our packaging. And in true Slow Food tradition, we have connected our customers to a previously anonymous food.

Farmers Market Samples this week

From the Ferry Plaza:

sesame seeds
soy sauce

From Davis:
A very popular and tasty Indian rice pudding! I'll post the recipe as soon as I get it from Marisol. Check back here!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

What's happening on the farm

Here's a quick list of what will be going on this week...

1) Almond hulls are starting to split, meaning harvest is only weeks away. Soon the nuts will start to dry and ripen. We should have nuts at our market stands by October (it takes time to process the nuts, including a month in the freezer for post-harvest sanitation.)

2) Our wheat was cleaned last week, and will be bagged on Monday in 50-lb sacks. Our main market for the wheat will be bakeries, but we'll likely sell wheat berries by the pound at the farmers markets as well. Look for it in the next couple weeks, and let me know if you are interested in larger quantities. I already have a few orders for 100 lbs each. I'll be looking for some recipes for you. Here's one.

3) The rice is in the tillering stage, meaning that side shoots are forming from the base of the plant. Each tiller is capable of producing grains, so the more tillers the better.

4) Tractor repair. The small tractor that we use for mowing our orchard broke down last week. I hope to have it back soon (at a cost of $6000!). We're also replacing the cylinder teeth (which separate rice grains from straw) in our old combine this week.

5) Rice deliveries. Almost every week I end up driving somewhere with a pallet of rice. This week it will be Davis, to restock our storage area for the Davis and Sacramento farmers markets.

6) Paperwork! I'm still trying to get the insurance to cover our losses from the wheat fire that happened last month. I also need to start preparing for our annual organic inspection with CCOF. And of course there are always bills (see item 4).

I promise a more interesting post soon...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bad Air Day


Actually, it is more like a bad air month. Our area of northern California was hit by a lightening storm three weeks ago, and the mountains have been on fire ever since, We started with hundreds of fires, and are now down to about 30 or so. Several of them have combined into quite large fires, and have caused a terrible amount of damage. Many thousands of people have been evacuated. The air has been calm, so the smoke is just hanging in the valley, and we have a layer of ash on everything that sits outside. The air quality is now defined as "hazardous," and we are being urged to stay inside and not work or play. Visibility today was less than half a mile. At times, the sun actually disappears like we're in a thick fog. Effects on the crops are minor compared to people losing their homes and the damage to our lungs, but I expect rice yields will be somewhat reduced by the lack of sunshine and excessive smoke this month.
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Guest Blogging at Culinate

I was recently asked to be a guest blogger for the Dinner Guest series at Culinate. I'll be doing a series of 5 or 6 posts over the next two months. My first post went up today, so please visit them and check it out!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

We're in the LA Times!

Today's LA Times has a very nice story about us titled, "Spreading their ideals organically." The story covers our strawbale home, farming philosophy, and our foster care work. Unfortunately, the photos that appeared in the paper didn't make it to the online edition, but you can read the story on the Times website:,0,4577023.story

Check it out and let us know what you think!