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Hamilton City, CA
USA

Massa Organics is a small family farm located along the Sacramento River near Chico, California. Using sustainable, ecologically-mindful practices, we produce organic, diverse, nutrient-rich crops.

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Blog

Duck Orders

Greg Massa

The whole purpose of raising ducks in the field, of course, was to have duck meat to sell. We've been busy with rice harvest and other things, so the ducks have been sitting in our freezer waiting for us to get to them. But now it is time!

We're taking orders for the ducks this week, and will deliver them to our farmers markets for pickup. We only have about 100 ducks to sell, so it will be first come, first serve. If you want to make sure you get one (or more), you must order ahead by contacting us via email or phone: 530-519-8628. We are delivering this Saturday, October 24. We will deliver to the San Francisco Ferry Plaza, and the Berkeley Farmers Market. You must be there to pick up your bird! Please don't order one if you can't be sure you will be there.

The ducks weigh about 3.5-4 lbs, and we'll be charging $5/lb, meaning most birds will cost between $15 and $20.

Friday afternoon note: We still have ducks available!

Integrated Rice/Duck Farming Part II

Greg Massa

So to continue where I left off...

We ordered 120 pekin ducks, which are the standard meat breed. The day old ducklings arrived in the mail, and I have to say, there are few things in this world as cute as 120 little yellow baby ducks running around. Our kids had a great time helping us take care of them.


Ducklings need to be kept warm for the first couple weeks, so normally we would raise them inside under heat lamps. But because we started this project in June, it was plenty hot enough to start them in a brooder outside. We quickly realized that the brooder we had built for them was going to be too small, so we immediately built one three times as large. Once we finished that, we knew it was going to be too small as well, because ducklings grow like nothing you have ever seen! Luckily, by the end of the second week, they were large enough to move into the rice field.




The whole goal of integrating ducks with rice farming is to turn your weeds and pests into duck food, so that not only do you get a weed-free rice crop, you also get ducks to eat. There are several side benefits, but that's the main goal. We turned the ducks out into a smallish section of the rice field that we had fenced off for predator control (as a side note, when John was building the fence in the flooded field, I asked how it was going. His answer: "Worst. Job. Ever.").
"The Power of Duck" says that the ducks should be stocked at about 100 ducks per acre. For this trial run, I didn't want to fence that large an area, so we fenced off about a quarter acre. This is plenty of room for the ducks to swim and forage in, but it turned out to be too small an area to produce enough food to support them. They quickly ate all the weeds in the field, but left the rice plants alone, just as they were supposed to. Thus, we supplemented their natural feed with what else but organic brown rice and wheat!


We grew the ducks for about 9 weeks before we harvested them. I know that the conditions in which they were raised were more humane than probably 99% of the meat ducks in this country. They essentially lived in a pond that allowed them to fully express their "duckiness." They were not raised on slats in a barn with no access to swimming water. These ducks had it good, and you can taste that in the finished product. I am really happy with the taste of the meat. It's superb.

We did learn a few things. I already mentioned that our stocking rate was too high, and that we had to supplement their feed. They also trampled some of the rice in their pond, which would not have been a problem if we had used a larger section of the field. I also think that pekins are not the right breed for integrated rice/duck production. They are a little too large to move effectively between the dense rice plants, and they are not active enough in their foraging abilities. Pekins have been bred to sit around and eat all day, gaining weight quickly for industrial meat production. They did well enough in the field, but didn't forage well enough to gain weight quickly. As such, they are a little on the thin side, with the carcasses weighing out at 3.5-4 lbs. We're currently researching which breeds to try next, and I think we're going to try Saxony and Welsh Harlequins next.

It was fun to have the ducks on the farm, and it has been a goal of ours to bring animals back to the farm. We're going to try raising ducks again, as I think with the right breed and the right stocking density it could be very successful.


Integrated Rice/Duck Farming Part I

Greg Massa

We spent the last couple months raising ducks in our rice fields, which is an odd thing to do around here, as ducks are widely considered to be pests in rice fields. Wild ducks eat the seeds of newly planted rice and tramp the seedlings into the mud. This creates open patches of water, which draw more ducks, and pretty soon you have a big problem. So what were we thinking?

Well, several years ago I was turned on to the idea of integrating ducks into rice farming by a unique book called, "The Power of Duck" by Takao Furuno. Mr. Furuno is a rice farmer in Japan who had been struggling with his fight against weeds in his organic fields. Recognizing his problem as an opportunity, he started thinking of the weeds, bugs and snails in his fields as duck food, turning his problems into tasty duck meat.

The key to his system is releasing small ducklings into the paddy fields at the right time. Ducklings do not harm young rice plants as adult ducks would, but they do eat weeds and bugs. They also help fertilize the rice. Once the grains start to form on the rice, he harvests the ducks for meat. This is critical, as the ducks have now become large, and love to eat the developing grains of rice.

This idea is a very elegant agro-ecological production system. It has been something of a boon to small rice farmers in Asia, who used to toil many hours weeding their rice by hand. The system has also been extended to include small fish raised concurrently with the rice and ducks.

I've been wanting to try this system ever since I first read the book, but never seemed to have the time to do it. This year presented an opportunity, and we finally just decided to go for it on an experimental basis. We ordered 120 pekin ducks, which are the standard large, white meat duck that most people are used to. We chose pekins more for this reason than for any other characteristics of the breed, such as foragaing ability.

This post to be continued...


Almond Harvest Preparation

Greg Massa


Almond harvest starts in a day or two, so we're cleaning up the orchard one last time. Here, John is flaming the weeds in the tree rows with our industrial size flamer--we upgraded from what we now call the "homeowner" version a couple months ago. Here's a video of the homeowner flamer. The new flamer is at least 4 times faster, way more effective, and sounds like a jet roaring through the orchard. These flamers burn liquid propane.


Summer Rice Salad Ideas

Greg Massa

Summer is the perfect time for a rice salad. Here are a few ideas taken and modified from a recent New York Times article:

1. Mix leftover Massa Organics brown rice with lemon or lime juice, soy sauce and a combination of sesame and peanut oils. Microwave if necessary to soften the rice, then serve at room temperature, tossed with sprouts, shredded radishes, chopped scallions, bits of cooked meat or fish if you like and more soy sauce.

2. Cook and cool Massa Organics brown rice. Toss with olive oil, loads of lemon juice, tons of parsley, some chopped tomatoes and, if you like, toasted pine nuts.

3. Mix cooked Massa Organics brown rice with orange zest and juice, olive oil, maybe honey, sliced oranges, raisins or dried cranberries, chopped red onion and chopped almonds. Serve over greens, or not.

4. Cook Massa Organics brown rice in watered-down coconut milk (be careful that it doesn’t burn) and a few cardamom pods. While warm, toss with peas (they can be raw if they’re fresh and tender), chopped cashews or pistachios, a pinch of chili flakes and chopped raw spinach.

5. Toss cooked, cooled farro, wheat berries, barley or other chewy grain with chopped-up grapes. Add olive oil, lemon juice and thinly sliced romaine lettuce; toss again, with ricotta salata or feta if you want. (OK this isn't a rice salad, but we sell wheat berries too!)

6. Toss cooked Massa Organics brown rice with fresh sliced apricots, cherries, pecans, and enough lemon and black pepper to make the whole thing savory.

71. Cook a pot of Massa Organics brown rice. While it’s still hot, toss with raw grated zucchini, fermented black beans, sriracha, sesame oil, sake and a touch of rice vinegar. Add bits of leftover roast chicken or pork if you have it, and pass soy sauce at the table.

Finally, don't forget the other rice salads we've posted on our blog in the past:

Cranberry Pecan Rice Salad

Summer Fiesta Salad

Ensalada de Tricia

Enjoy!

Chaffin Orchards Delivery

Greg Massa

We've formed an informal partnership with Chaffin Orchards, a neighbor of ours who raises some amazing grass fed and finished beef (we have a freezer full!), as well as pastured poultry and eggs, award-winning olive oil, and some of the best heirloom peaches you've ever had. They have a very integrated and diversified production system, and are as sustainable a farm as you are likely to find. They don't do any San Francisco Bay Area farmers markets, but do make deliveries to their customers there on an regular basis. As a added bonus, they are now offering our rice!

Chris is planning a delivery trip to San Francisco next Wednesday, with an additional stop in Sacramento. I highly recommend their products! It's also a great opportunity to pick up some of our rice without having to fight the crowds at the farmers market or pay for shipping. Here is a list of what Chris will have on the truck next week:

Grassfed beef
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 375 ml bottle $8
Pastured Free Range Eggs: $6.50/dozen
Organically farmed Heirloom Peaches at $1/lb!!!!
Pet Food made from their grassfed beef.
Massa Organics Brown Rice $4/2-lb bag or $30/20-lb bag

If you'd like more information about this, please email me (greg(at)massaorganics(dot)com)and I'll forward the details. Chris needs the orders by Monday at 6pm so that he can get everything ready for delivery.

Don't miss out!

Stacking hay

Greg Massa

This week we picked up our baled organic hay crop. Below is a series of photos showing how that gets done. The first shot is of my two younger sons, Mit and Mason, standing on a bale watching Stacia pick up the bales. We hired our neighbor to do all of the baling and stacking because we don't have any of this specialized equipment. This machine, known as a harrow bed, is really amazing. It picks up 1200 lb bales on the go, and stacks them automatically. Very cool!










Kids on the tractor

Greg Massa

I've had our younger kids on the tractor with me a couple times over the last few days, and it never fails to make them sleepy. The kids are always excited to go on the tractor with me, but soon realize that we just go around and around the field, and the scenery never changes. Usually I can get an hour or two out of them. I took these photos with my cell phone. The first photo is Mit, our 5 year old, and the second is Mason and Lily, our 3 year olds.