Blue Moon Acres’ Jim Lyons Talks Rice
Kathy and Jim Lyons have dedicated their careers to discovering healthier and more sustainable forms of agriculture. They have a keen interest in cultivating microbially diverse and mineral-rich soil; that is to say they appreciate dirt. Recently they successfully added organic dryland rice to a growing list of extraordinary foods grown on their Pennington New Jersey farm. At a recent farm to table dinner (Sagra Del Riso) Jim spoke about his and Kathy’s long journey to realizing the dream of growing organic rice in New Jersey.
Paul Hawken wrote a book that focused on starting a business. One chapter focused on the inception and vetting of new ideas. He said, ‘if you run your idea past your friends and family and everyone agrees it is a great idea you are probably too late. If, on the other hand, people look askance at you shaking and scratching their heads,’ Hawken says, ‘you might be onto something.’
So it was over 30 years ago I proudly walked my father down to my garden where I had a three foot by thirty foot planting of rice. He looked at the garden, he looked back at me incredulously and said, “can’t you just buy this down the street at the supermarket?”
It was the first of many good omens, and many years later we had land to`conduct a New Jersey rice production experiment. It is, as far as I know, the first time ever commercially grown rice has been grown in this part of the continent.
There was, however, a historical precedent to what we have done. We are walking in the footsteps of Thomas Jefferson who was sourcing and distributing different varieties of rice that could be grown ‘dryland’ style. His motivation was the realization that somehow the flooded fields or paddy style of growing rice was causing people to become sickened with malaria. Toward the end of his life he remarked that one of his best contributions to his fellow countrymen was his discovery of red rice that could be grown, not commercially, but by householders. So…this is very much an experiment and we’re still working out the details in growing rice. Each year we learn a bit more.
One of the wonderful things about growing ‘dryland’ rice is , for those of you who read the New York Times, their last article was titled “The Trouble with Rice”. It dealt with how these Texas growers were trying to reduce the arsenic levels in their rice by draining their paddies. The paddy style of growing has the propensity of really increasing the accumulation of arsenic in the plant. Unfortunately, as they drain their paddies, their arsenic levels probably dropped but the cadmium levels probably shot up and too high of cadmium causes brittle bones.
Dryland style, a more aerobic style of growing rice, has none of these problems. It is much more labor intensive and so our rice is much more expensive but there is the wonderful added benefit of producing rice right here. We can husk it for you every week. Probably we will be doing it twice a week and so it will be very fresh. The other aspect of rice is it tends, through oxidative exposure, to go rancid. My experience is that it goes rancid kind of quickly. So when you smell our rice it has a wonderful bouquet or it doesn’t smell like anything at all and that’s a good thing. We are pleased to be able to produce this for you. We are investing further in it. We hope to be improving our growing technique as things move forward. You are all supporting us in doing this and I’m appreciative of that. Thank you. “
At Max Hansen Caterer we are proud to serve this amazing locally grown product to our catering clients. You can also purchase this very special locally grown product at Max’s Carversville Grocery. Taste the difference of rice that is grown with love for the soil.