Snow Goose Farms not only sustains its rice growing operations for generations of the Denn family, but sustains the enviroment for generations of wildlife on the northern edge of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Waiting while a combine is repaired so they can begin rice harvest, from left, Mark Denn, Sandy Denn and Wally Denn, enjoy a conversation under a clear, Sacramento Valley sky.
Rice growers are paid on volume and quality. Machines are tooled to avoid cracking the heads of rice, which discounts the price to growers. It is also important to harvest the rice at optimum moisture levels to avoid cracking.
Of the growers who ship through SunWest in Woodland, Calif., where Wally and Sandy market their rice, nobody had higher quality rice last season than they did.
“I won’t have it this year,” he said of his high quality honors. “Last year we had an exceptionally good year.”
Rice samples are judged on head quality, Wally says. Sample scores consider the total count of kernels against the number of good kernels. The closer the two numbers are: total count and good kernels, the higher the quality of rice and the higher the payout to the grower.
Last year Snow Goose Farms had total head rice counts in his samples of 73-74, with his lowest quality head count of 70.
“There’s about six cents per point of head rice,” he said. “If I got 70/72 and someone else got 60/72, that’s 10 points or about 60 cents per (100 pound) bag.”
Quality rice at harvest is why Wally says he stays with the Case IH machines.
“If you get a machine that can give you good head rice, you can pay for the machine in the difference you save,” he said.
Snow Goose Farms is aptly named. It sits on the northern edge of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, which sits along the east side of Interstate 5. In the winter months millions of water fowl migrating along the Pacific Flyway stop for a break or winter over in the region. One of the more populous birds is the snow goose, which fills the valley skies by the thousands during its migration.
The harvested rice fields in the Sacramento Valley also make for excellent feeding grounds for the migrating birds. The California Rice Commission reports that about 230 different wildlife species make their home in and around rice fields. These fields provide as much as 60 percent of the food for the estimated 7-10 million wintering ducks and geese that use the Pacific Flyway.
California produces more than two million tons of rice annually, making it second only to Arkansas in terms of total U.S. rice production. California leads the nation in the production of sweet rice and wild rice, according to the State of California. About 40 percent of California’s rice is exported. Top export markets include Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Turkey.
In 2011, rice was harvested from 580,000 acres of farmland in California. The leading rice producing counties in the state include Colusa, Sutter, Glenn, Butte and Yuba.
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