Why Not!

In this area, wheat, corn and sorghum are common place.  

Why not rice?  Why Not! 

 

 
 
Newly established paddies, each overflowing into the other and the bottom one overflowing into canals that weave through other beds.

Newly established paddies, each overflowing into the other and the bottom one overflowing into canals that weave through other beds.

Piglets gleying the paddies

Piglets gleying the paddies

Paddies about a month after rice plants were transplanted

Paddies about a month after rice plants were transplanted

Qinoa

Qinoa

A couple weeks before harvesting

A couple weeks before harvesting

When I first read that Ben Faulk was growing rice in Vermont, I was inspired but I got distracted (easily done on a farm) and all but forgot about it.  Sean got inspired after reading about it, grabbed a shovel, reignited my interest and voila, rice paddies were carved.    

This ag area is corn and wheat; I've never seen rice grown here, although I discovered that VA's ancestors certainly did.  In further exploration, the bounty per acre of rice is far greater than wheat not to mention that growing rice has very few challenges.  Since "starting small" is mandatory, we dug 3 small paddies, let piglets seal them, planted sudangrass early which was chopped/dropped as the mulch and transplanted the young rice.   We seeded the rice in a greenhouse in Feb, transplanted into the paddies May and harvested in early September.  VA has a fairly short season for rice, so we only experimented with short grain and quinoa. Since you keep a bit of water (not much!) in the base of the paddy, weeds are suppressed & once the rice gets settled in and growing, not much can compete.  The paddies never had to be weeded nor tended other than to irrigate in late summer when we hit drought season.  

During the time just prior to harvesting, I was reading about desert planting practices.  I found many articles on sunken beds in arid places.  This made perfect sense to me:  soil temp would be cooler within a concave bed vs a convex bed, evaporation would also be lessenen; therefore, plants wouldn't be stress and should thrive by comparison.  it made perfect sense that once the rice was harvested, their stalks chopped and used as mulch elsewhere that we'd convert these paddies to sunken grow beds.  We hilled up some small rows inside each paddies, planted cole crops for the fall, harvested and just for fun seeded again in early December.  The most interesting realization for me, was the lettuces and greens that we planted just before winter set in, sprouted, grew and surprisingly without any row cover etc, were unharmed by snow as well as temps as low as 2 degrees.  That was beyond any expectation I could imagine.  Granted I wouldn't say that they thrived, but we completely lost greens in an unheated greenhouse but not 1 plant outside in a sunken bed.  

We just reestablished these beds back to their proper paddy form, pulling up the excess soil and added it on the paddy's bumpers.  Potatoes will be planted in those surrounding bumpers this spring.   Incredible successes!  Sudan grass with great seed heads for fodder, stalks for a deep mulch, an abundance of rice followed by a great harvest of greens and brassicas, soon to include potatoes and another round of rice.  As a side note, we believe that we can easily get in 2 full crops of quinoa since we started the quinoa seeds at the same time as the rice, transplanted into seperate paddies at the same time, but harvested 2.5 full months earlier.  So this year, we will start a round of quinoa seeds and then start another round of seeds once the more mature quinoa is transplanted into the paddy.