Yesterday I spent a glorious sunny afternoon in the Yolo Bypass looking at rice fields, wildlife habitat, and irrigation systems.
This is a field of Koshihikari rice (premium brown rice) almost ready for harvest. Can you sense the well-being?
While we stood there talking about creating an EQIP practice for seasonal flooding for fish, a huge white egret flew across and roosted in the tree line. Then a Great Blue Heron came flying up the Tule Canal (along the tree line) and landed in another tree. As we drove to the Wallace Weir we passed harvesters and a handful of hawks swirled overhead waiting for hapless snakes or rodents fleeing the fields. Ah, the circle of life. The equipment has advanced from the scythe but the process is the same down through the centuries.
This particular field has been designed to be flooded for the winter; first for waterbirds and then for salmon fry. I am privileged to work with a group of farmers and scientists who are reconnecting California’s salmon to the historic floodplain where the newly spawned salmon spent 6-8 weeks getting fat before swimming out to sea. Replacing this piece in the salmon life-cycle is critical to restoring the salmon runs in the golden state.
The choice is not fish OR agriculture, especially Koshihikari rice as it is grown with relatively few chemical inputs. (For more information about the Nigiri experiment see: http://baydeltatourist.com/2012/03/14/nigiri-project-salmon-on-rice/)
The other great side benefit to this work is discovering a great tasting rice that has the fiber and nutritional benefits of brown rice, but tastes more like white rice. It is only available in Japanese markets like Oto’s in Sacramento. Hopefully it will soon be available in Whole Foods. It is locally grown, bird friendly and fish friendly. Love, love, love it.