Farm animals play an important role on a number of Ferry Plaza Farmers Market farms. We’ve compiled a collection of adorable photos from Massa Organics, Marin Sun Farms, and Bodega & Yerba Santa Goat Cheese, to give you a taste of farm life at these integrated operations. (Photos courtesy of their respective farms.)
Greg Massa and Raquel Krach are the primary farmers of the organic acres, but they’re helped in the fields and at the farmers market by their 5 children, Greg’s parents (Mary and Manuel), and 2 full-time employees.
The Massa family owns 700 acres in Hamilton City (150 miles to the Ferry Plaza Farmes Market), 220 of which they farm organically.
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.
In 1997, Greg and Raquel moved back to the Massa family farm and shortly thereafter began transitioning a portion of the land to organic. They also took on the challenges (and embraced the joys) of selling their rice directly to the public—a rare choice for rice farmers, since the rice industry does not cater to farmers trying to hull and sell their crop in small batches. Their rice is served in over 30,000 school lunches each week.
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.
The Massas also raise ducks, pigs, and sheep. Rice fields mimic ponds and support a lot of biological diversity. Migratory birds, river otters, dragonflies, and many other species make their homes on the farm each year.
California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) since 2002
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.
The impact of tadpole shrimp, the farm’s primary pest, is offset using timely planting, water control and, as a last resort, copper sulfate.
Greg, Raquel, and their children live in a straw bale home built with their own rice straw.
Hamilton City, California
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of farmers markets and educational programs. Learn More »