Raquel Krach doesn’t like writing about herself in the third person:
As a farmer and mom I wear many hats. While I often have trouble juggling responsibilities I am passionate, and my extreme sense of justice fuels my farming, parenting and community roles. Everyone deserves safe, clean food to eat as well as a safe clean environment in which to work, play, grow and learn.
Growing up in suburban LA, I had little knowledge of agriculture or rural life. What I did know came from my elementary social studies textbooks and trips to the LA county fair. When I later met Greg in college at UC Santa Barbara I was shocked to learn that in fact there were rice farms in California. Even as a kid in LA though, I developed a strong appreciation for “nature” through lots of family camping trips and my dad’s extensive horticulture hobby. While I grew up in “the church” (my parents were Lutheran school teachers), it was a while in to college and international travel that I developed the social justice perspective.
My academic training started with an organismal biology undergraduate degree. Through an “education abroad” program in Costa Rica, I became aware of the developing field of sustainable agriculture and research in Agroecology. I was thrilled to find a subject of study that combined my love of “nature” and “life” and all its complexities with environmental and social context. I loved the hands on research I participated in on the edges of the tropical rainforest, and the opportunity to teach, but I did not love the academic milieu. Luckily I had married Greg, who had grown up on a farm and who’s parents were still farming in Northern California. Voila! We had the perfect and unique opportunity to leave academia and practice our “sustainable agriculture” on a real farm!
In 16 years a lot has happened. The farm and our roles have evolved as we attempt to make the farm more sustainable: environmentally, economically, and socially. We decided early on to start a family, and within 8 years we had adopted 5 children. So in addition to growing the rice, almonds, pigs and other crops we have been growing kids.
Some of my favorite parts of this life are feeding my family AMAZINGLY tasty and healthy food, being present at the births of our pigs, sheep and goats, and sharing our beautiful space with visitors.
Greg Massa doesn’t like writing about himself in the third person either, so I (Raquel) am going to do it.
Greg grew up in a tiny town in the heart of the Sacramento Valley called Princeton. This four-square-block metropolis is situated adjacent to the Sacramento River and is known for its famous river crossing Ferry. More important, it is only miles from where Greg’s great grandfather, and other Portuguese immigrants planted the first California rice crops. While Greg’s dad and his siblings grew up in the old farmhouse, Greg’s parents moved to “town” to raise their family. (When we moved back to farm we first lived in that old farmhouse.)
Greg and his two brothers spent their childhoods learning to grow rice using big tractors and lots of chemicals. They worked during school vacations and summers throughout high school and college earning enough to buy their own cars and travel to Europe. None of the three were anxious to take over the farm and like his brothers Greg assumed he would pursue SOME other career. He majored in Biology at UCSB, and dabbled in surfing, volleyball and beer.
In his second “junior” year, Greg studied abroad in England. While Beer played its role in Europe too, it was the field ecology course on the coast of Ireland that had the most significant impact. After that Greg fell quickly in love with Botany and the rest is history. Well, not exactly. He graduated from UCSB, married me and followed me off to Santa Cruz and Costa Rica for graduate school.
Greg completed a Masters degree from San Jose state by doing a distributional study of an extremely cool tropical plant (a hemiepiphyte) while we lived in Costa Rica. Our travels there and time doing our research and those of our colleagues molded our interest in conservation biology and determination to find a niche in the environmental movement that would truly make a difference.
Coming home to the farm was that niche.
Greg dove head first into the existing farm framework established and perfected by his dad over the previous decades. High inputs and contract marketing were the dominant themes. As input prices rose and conventional rice prices dropped Greg was able to convince his dad to let us convert some acreage to organic rice production. GMO rice production reared its ugly head in Northern California, and Greg co-led the fight to quash it. Finally, frustration with the corporate model pushed us over the edge into direct sales and Greg became Marketer extraordinaire.
Voila! The birth of Massa Organics.
In the mean time, we built our straw bale house, grew our kids, and (most surprising to Greg) introduced ANIMALS to our lives. Greg, always a cat person, and then maybe a “big” dog person now happily carries around out little yappy dog. (Plus, we have a hundred pigs, a hundred sheep, and a dozen goats!)