Starting Tuesday we will be exclusively serving local brown rice for our I am Grateful Bowl. This might not feel like a very large declaration, but in our world and with our impact, we see it being large. We've told you about the wonders of quinoa, the magic of this incredible little plant that produces something so perfectly balanced for our consumption needs as humans. We stand behind the power of this grain, AND we've also been following the news of the decline of Bolivian nutrition as Bolivian quinoa has gained popularity in the Western world. As the price of quinoa goes up to meet the demand of rich international buyers, quinoa can no longer be afforded in the Bolivian homes it comes from. By means of our buying power, United States purchasing trends are disrupting the political and health sustainability of Bolivian citizens. See more on this subject here.
We are choosing to shift our focus from quinoa to the awesome local and sustainable crop of brown rice. We have an excellent connection with an amazing family that's been growing rice through four generations. Massa Organics is a local family owned rice farm that respects the soil and ensures the highest quality of grain. Because we are shifting to using brown rice, we are cutting our footprint in the costs of shipping from Bolivia and we are supporting local farms for a fresh alternative. We sold over 65,000 bowls of quinoa through the "I am Grateful" program last year. We are owning up to our impact on Bolivian families, and are recommitting to local, sustainable options that benefit the whole. Visit a cafe near you to try our delicious new choice!
Here's some info by Massa Organics, located near Chico, CA:
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.
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.
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.