The Massa family owns 700 acres in Hamilton City, 220 of which they farm organically.
Greg Massa and Raquel Krach are the primary farmers of the 220 organic acres, but are helped in the fields and at the farmers' market by their five children, Greg's parents (Mary and Manuel Massa), and 2 full time employee.
California Certified Organic Farmer(CCOF) since 2002.
Greg Massa’s family has been growing rice in Hamilton City, near Chico, for four generations. His great grandfather, who emigrated from Portugal, first began farming their 700 acres in 1916. Through the generations, the Massas' farm, and rice production in general, has seen significant changes; the way that Greg’s grandfather grew rice—with no chemical inputs and very little machinery—gave way to a highly mechanized, energy- and chemical-intensive “green revolution” model during his father’s generation. In 1997, Greg and his wife Raquel Krach left their jobs as tropical biologists and brought their love and knowledge of ecology back to the Massa family farm, commencing another shift in how the Massas grow rice. Shortly after Greg returned to the farm, he and Raquel began transitioning a portion of their acreage to organic. The rice from their 90 organic acres is what they sell at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
Because of increased weed competition and less availability of nitrogen, Greg and Raquel’s organic acres yield about half as much rice as the acres that they farm conventionally. Lower production costs and higher prices paid for organic rice mean that in the end, growing organically is no more profitable than growing conventionally. However, direct marketing offers the opportunity to capture some of the money that generally goes to middlemen. Rice production mostly happens on a very large scale and farmers sell their entire crop to corporations that mill and distribute the grains. Many producers never taste their own rice or learn who (or what) consumed it. Since there are few mills that will hull in small batches, and since farmers are daunted by the prospect of bagging the rice and selling it pound by pound, rice is rarely sold directly by producer to consumer. A few years ago, though, Greg and Raquel were able to find a mill to process their organic rice. They tasted their product for the first time and have taken on the challenge (and embraced the joys) of selling straight to eaters. Says Greg, “It’s more fun to know that someone is eating your rice and liking it.”
The Massas grow one variety of rice: a medium-grain type called Calrose, which is well suited to California conditions and dominates the rice industry in this state. Rice fields, which mimic ponds, support astounding biological diversity--migratory birds, river otters, dragonflies, and many other species make their homes on the farm each year.
The impact of tadpole shrimp, the farm's primary pest, is offset using timely planting, water control and, as a last resort, copper sulfate.
Massa Organics' silt loam sits above a hardpan (dense soil layer) and holds water well, which is perfect for rice production. Cover crops and compost are used to increase soil fertility, and crop stubble (the vegetation that is left after rice harvest) is returned to the soil instead of burned.
Both an on-site well and an irrigation district allotment supply water for the farm. Water management is an extremely important aspect of rice production.
Flooding the rice fields with water for 4 weeks, and then depriving the fields for 4 more weeks helps to control weeds.