Greg Massa and his wife, Raquel Krach, own Massa Organics, an organic rice, wheat, and almond farm in northern California. They have five children.

A sense of place

Why Greg grows only American rice

By
August 26, 2008

We’re rice farmers, and as I mentioned in my last post here on Culinate, we’re unusual among rice farmers in that we direct-market our organic brown rice at farmers’ markets. We’re up to nine farmers’ markets a week now, and this week, we’ll also be selling rice in the Marketplace at Slow Food Nation in San Francisco.

The rice we grow is called Calrose, a high-quality, medium-grain rice unique to California. It’s the variety that grows best in our soil and climate. But it’s also the most common variety grown in California. So what qualifies our farm for recognition at Slow Food Nation?

Quite simply, we do a better job of growing tasty rice than others do.

The biggest difference between our rice and others you may have tried is the taste. Many of our first-time customers are surprised simply to discover that rice has any flavor at all!

The key is that we let our rice fully mature on the plant, which leads to a more complex flavor. It’s nutty but sweet, able to stand up to the most flavorful dishes on your plate or even to become the centerpiece of a meal.

People often ask if we grow jasmine or basmati rice, both aromatic long-grain rices. The answer is that we could grow them, and many in California do. But the jasmine we would grow would be inferior to our Calrose, and bear little resemblance to the jasmine that comes from Thailand, where the variety originated.

Jasmine rice responds best to the climate, soil, and farming methods of Thailand, where it attains its full flavor and aroma.

Another reason for us to not grow jasmine is that that variety was developed through the efforts of many successive generations of Thai farmers. Jasmine is their genetic heritage, and growing it in California feels wrong — like stealing something precious.

long grain brown rice
Greg could grow long-grain brown rice, but he doesn’t.

Visiting with Thai rice farmers, as well as hosting them on our farm, convinced us that we should stick with what we do well, and let them do what they do well.

This is another of Slow Food’s principles: Food has a story, which should not be taken out of context.

If you’ll be in San Francisco this Labor Day weekend, come see our booth at the Civic Center. I’ll be there all day on Friday, and helping out the rest of the weekend.

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1. by suebette on Aug 26, 2008 at 4:13 PM PDT

Hi Greg, It’s great to see you here on Culinate - I have been picking up your rice at the Berkeley farmer’s market and loving it - thanks for getting a great product out to the markets! - Sue

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