The California Rice Commission posts blogs on its
Web site by California rice farmers and others associated
with the industry. The first two blogs featured
here are by Sandy Denn, who, along with her husband
Wally, owns and operates
Snow Goose Farms near Willows
in Glenn County. The third one is
by fourth-generation rice farmer
Tom Butler, who farms with his
father, Steve, in Sutter and Yolo
Family In California Rice Farming:
The crop grows, and it leaves a
legacy. People grow and leave a
legacy. What am I talking about?
Well, I got to thinking nostalgically
this time of year. It’s a good time
to reflect. And I reflect on times
that I spent with my grandfather,
and, now, here I am the third generation
on this farm. I have a
grown son who is fourth generation
working with us on the farm,
and he has sons who are very
interested in staying in agriculture
in some aspect.
There was a phase a few years
back when I kind of despaired that
the young people were leaving the
farm to enter professions in such
numbers that maybe agriculture
was in a state of threat. I don’t think that anymore.
I’ve seen too many fine young people go away from the
farm, get their education and come back in a related profession
that helps us in agriculture stay on the farm. They seem
to take pride in their families’ legacy.
Winter Relections: 1/30/2013
Here we are out on the farm two months ahead of the season
change. You know what? It’s just as much fun watching
the week-to-week changes that occur on the farm this time of
year. We’ve had, of course, the heavy influx of snow geese
and pintails and speckled breast, and those now are kind of
spreading out to other fields and are beginning to thin out
in the waters that are here.
And while that happens, we then get the solitary birds, the
hawks, the bald eagles, all the raptors start moving in. And it’s quite a thrill to look out your living room window and
there sitting 500 feet away is a bald eagle sitting on a levee. We
have had that experience for the last 10 days to two weeks
now of having a visiting bald eagle. It’s a thrill I can’t describe.
The geese are wonderful and are
exciting. The ducks are pretty and
comical, but when you get the raptors
in, it’s just something very,
very special. Of course, the most
special of all of those is the bald
eagle. So we don’t have to wait for
the change of seasons to see a real
change on the farm.
Changing Farm History Of The
Sutter Basin: 9/18/2012
This family farm that my dad
and I run has about 4,000 acres of
rice right now. That’s a pretty big
change to what it used to be. When
my grandfather started farming
here in the late 1940s, this was
actually a livestock farm, and half
of the ranch was used to grow
alfalfa to feed the mules and the
livestock that were on it.
He segued into rice, but even
when I was a kid in the 1980s and
early ‘90s, there were only about
1,500 acres of rice grown here.
There was a lot of rotation with
row crop for processing tomatoes,
sugar beets and melons.
Around the start of the 21st century, we decided to make a
switch and reconfigure the ranch to grow rice exclusively.
That took about 10 years. So here we are in 2012. Now we
have completely flat and laser leveled rice paddies, and that’s
a big difference from growing up when I used to see furrow
beds, sugar beets and melon vines all over the place. I can’t
predict what it will be in another 10 years.
Maybe we will rip it all up and grow corn, maybe it can go
back to what it was. That’s the thing about this valley and
this part of the Sutter Basin. You can grow anything on it. It’s
great rice ground, but we are lucky that it has very diverse
soils. We have a lot of options, but the options require
planning and work.
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