MEET YOUR RICE FARMER
Massa Organics is part of a small family farm located along the Sacramento River near Chico, California. Massa Organics is managed by Greg Massa and Raquel Krach, in partnership with Greg's parents, Manuel and Mary Beth. We grow organic whole grain brown rice, which is available in two-pound packages, or in bulk. We partner with other members of the organic community to distribute our rice through farmers markets, CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture), and grocery stores.
90 YEARS OF FAMILY FARMING
Massa Organics is a 4th generation California rice farm. My great-grandfather Manuel Fonseca planted his first rice crop in 1916 (California's first rice crop was only a few years prior to this). His diary shows that he made a profit for two years, but his 1918 crop failed due to weed competition (a battle we fight to this day!). His daughter, Aldina, married Manuel Massa, who shortly began farming rice and eventually became my grandfather. Both the Fonseca's and Massa's emigrated from Portugal--Manuel Fonseca in 1893, and Manuel Massa in 1921.
My dad, also Manuel, began farming full time in 1962, and turned our farm into a model of production efficiency. This was a time when chemical fertilizers and herbicides were believed to be the future of agriculture. The "Green Revolution," based upon cheap energy supplies and "better living through chemistry," has been the dominant paradigm in American agriculture since then. Now, however, as oil prices skyrocket and the toxic effects of fertilizer and pesticide runoff are better understood, it is becoming clear that it is time for a re-invention of the American family farm.
A FARM FOR THE 21st CENTURY
In 1997, after several years working as tropical ecologists in Costa Rica, my wife, Raquel, and I returned to the Massa family farm. Rice farming offered an opportunity to do real conservation work on our own land, rather than the theoretical work of university-based ecology. Stewardship of the air, water and land became our primary focus, something we continue to take seriously today. For example, we have installed recirculation systems to reclaim our irrigation water, and do not burn any crop residue. We have planted native oak trees along field borders, and have installed nest boxes for wood ducks, barn owls, American kestrels, and bats. Future plans include the creation of waterfowl and shorebird habitat WITHIN our rice fields--an idea unheard of in rice production today. However, we measure improvements to the farm not just in crop yields,
A NEW PARADIGM IN RICE PRODUCTION
Our goal is to move the farm away from the unsustainable, energy-intensive, "green revolution" model, but we're not going back to horse drawn plows either (however, we have tried using ducks to weed the rice!). We envision a hybrid of my grandfather's and father's farm--fully mechanized and technologically advanced, but less resource intensive, and with a positive impact on the environment. The water that leaves our land needs to be cleaner than when it arrived, the soil needs to be improving every year, and we must share our land and harvests with wildlife.
Organic farming fits into our young family's ecological and personal goals, and we have been expanding our certified organic acreage since our initial 20 acre plot in 1998. We now have almost 90 acres of certified organic fields and hope to expand further. In 2005, we planted our first orchard: 30 acres of organic almonds. Massa Organics does not grow any genetically engineered crops.
OUR FARM IN THE COMMUNITY
We have a social vision for Massa Organics as well. We feel that our farm is a special place that we should share. Part of our vision is borne out in the foster care work Raquel and I have been doing. We have cared for several infants over the last three years. We try to include other children by having friends and relatives visit often, and by hosting school field trips a few times a year. The open spaces, wildlife, and farm equipment are big hits with the kids! Occasionally, we give tours of our home, which is made of baled rice straw and is highly energy efficient.
We also feel strongly that it is important to serve our community in other ways. We take leadership roles in several organizations, from grassroots farming groups, to foster care advocacy, to our church.