In the fall, the paddies will be drained and the rice harvested with a horse-drawn reaper binder, which cuts and bundles the plants and is a green alternative to the small combines more often used. After the rice is dried and threshed, it will be processed, with a $2,200 rice huller Andrus ordered from China. One reason more people don't grow rice is the lack of ability to process it, he said.
A local health food store has already promised to buy some of his harvest, and the rest will be sold at farmers' markets and to members of a community supported agriculture farm in Massachusetts, who pay ahead for produce and other products provided throughout the season. While his farm can't compare to the hundred- and thousand-acre rice farms in the South, he hopes to expand his paddy system to 5 acres and hopes rice will be a way for the smaller farms in the Northeast to diversify and make money while improving the environment.
The paddies provide a habitat for birds and amphibians, and the rice acts as a living filter, removing nitrogen and phosphorus from the water supply, he said. And, while the paddy system requires an investment, he figures it's worth it because it takes his worst, wet property and transforms it into potentially his most profitable.
"The rice takes that hindrance and makes it into an asset," he said.
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