• Publishers' Note Spring 2009

    Publishers' Note Spring 2009

    Let’s look at what we Vermonters might eat on a typical day in, say, March. Hot steaming oatmeal with dried apples and maple syrup starts the day. For lunch, we make a soup with root vegetables and barley—and of course we’ll add a slice of multigrain bread. Finally, dinner consists of baked beans, sausage, and sauerkraut. And during the cooking process for all these meals, we would inevitably use salt and oil.

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  • Bartered, Smuggled, and Bought

    Bartered, Smuggled, and Bought

    When the Upper Valley Localvores took their first 100–mile diet challenge in August 2005, we came upon a serious stumbling block. No local salt! Tomatoes and corn–on–the–cob were abundant, but oh, we needed salt. Fortunately, one of our members had vacationed in Maine and brought back a precious supply of sea salt. It made us wonder what our Upper Valley ancestors had done for salt.

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  • The 9' x 12' Vegetable Garden

    The 9' x 12' Vegetable Garden

    If you’re able to devote 15 minutes a day to gardening and are willing to give up a piece of your lawn roughly the size of the parking space for your car, you can grow a significant amount of good food—food that is organic, food that is tasty, food that is healthy. During World War II, Americans started “victory gardens,” growing up to 40 percent of their fresh produce. In these tough economic times, it again makes sense for us to grow some of our own food.

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  • Vermont’s Newest Grain?

    Vermont’s Newest Grain?

    People are often surprised to hear that rice can be grown in Vermont. After all, this grass is known as a tropical plant. But cultivated rice, first domesticated 6,000 years ago, is divided into two subspecies: O. sativa ‘indica,’ which is the long–grain type (such as jasmine or basmati) grown in tropical southern regions, and O. sativa ‘japonica,’ which is a shorter, rounder grain that is more cold tolerant. Japonica rice has been grown in Japan, of course, but also in more surprising temperate climates, such as the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Romania.

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  • Set the Table with Peasant Food

    Set the Table with Peasant Food

    Many people say they don’t buy into the localvore movement because local food is “elitist.” ?Yet some of the world’s great cuisines—Chinese, Italian, country French, Indian—have their roots among people who had the least to work with: peasants. What can we learn from peasant cultures that can help us eat both economically and locally at the same time?

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  • Who Will This Feed?

    Who Will This Feed?

    Imagine yourself in the future—say the spring of 2016. Farmers and growers in Vermont are planting numerous varieties of grains, as well as oilseed crops. What are they growing? And when it’s time for harvest, who—or what—will these crops feed?

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  • Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Spring

    Farming & Feasting with the Robinsons: Spring

    The 1860s were a tumultuous time for the Robinsons. Rachel Gilpin Robinson, wife of Rowland Thomas Robinson, passed away in 1862, shortly after dismissing longtime housekeeper Naomi Griswold from service. Because Rachel and Rowland’s daughter, Ann Robinson Minturn, was living far from her family in Waterloo, NY, Rachel’s death meant that a large home and farm were left in the hands of an aging father and his two bachelor sons, along with a new, unfamiliar housekeeper and a revolving cast of hired men who sometimes lived on the farm.

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  • Jack Lazor and the Graining of Vermont

    Jack Lazor and the Graining of Vermont

    Jack Lazor is the first to admit he’s got his fingers in a lot of pies. He says so with a chuckle, his gentle eyes sparkling like the bright mid–afternoon sun reflecting off newly fallen snow. Among his “pies” are grain–growing experiments to find varieties that thrive in Vermont, infrastructure development for the processing and storage of staple foods like beans and cooking oils, and a plethora of workshops in which he shares what he’s learned in his 30 years of farming.

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  • The Return of the Root Cellar

    The Return of the Root Cellar

    The globalized food chain that Americans have increasingly relied on for over 50 years has begun to show its weaknesses—and inevitable failure. There are many weak links in the chain, but the weakest are storage and distribution. These aspects of modern food production contribute significantly to energy consumption: fossil fuel is required to ship food from far away, to keep food fresh during long–distance transport, and to store food over a long period of time. How can we opt out of this destructive system?

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  • The Winooski Bean Thresher Co–op

    The Winooski Bean Thresher Co–op

    I moved to Vermont in 1989 with a desire to garden and build a self–sufficient life—values I inherited from my mother. As I began growing food for myself and friends, I naturally started out with the basics, also known as “the three sisters” native to the Americas: corn, beans, and squash. I grew winter squashes, Maine black turtle beans, and sweet corn—or at least tried to. The crows plucked up nearly every corn seed that sprouted from the earth, and the cucumber beetles attacked my squash plants.

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  • Farmers' Kitchen—Spilling the Beans

    Farmers' Kitchen—Spilling the Beans

    A rustic wooden bin filled with black beans sits on our table at the Middlebury Farmers’ Market. Some delighted customers march right up and serve themselves heaping bags full. Others slowly approach our stand to see what’s in the bin. These folks are either disappointed that we’re not selling what appeared to be roasted coffee beans or, more often, they just stand and contemplate the implications of a purchase. Cooking beans is a new and time–consuming activity for most. But people are often excited to learn that dry beans are being grown in Vermont, and many are surprised to know that it’s even possible in our climate.

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  • Last Morsel—Robert King

    Last Morsel—Robert King

    Robert King is renowned in southeast Vermont for his vast knowledge of gardening and the many workshops he leads to teach people how to grow their own food. His longtime friend Ron Krupp recently interviewed him about his life. This is a portion of that interview.

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Vermont’s Newest Grain?

Putney farmers experiment with growing rice

Rice paddy in Putney

Written By

Cheryl Bruce

Written on

March 01 , 2009

People are often surprised to hear that rice can be grown in Vermont. After all, this grass is known as a tropical plant. But cultivated rice, first domesticated 6,000 years ago, is divided into two subspecies: O. sativa ‘indica,’ which is the long–grain type (such as jasmine or basmati) grown in tropical southern regions, and O. sativa ‘japonica,’ which is a shorter, rounder grain that is more cold tolerant. Japonica rice has been grown in Japan, of course, but also in more surprising temperate climates, such as the Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Romania.

Now, in Vermont, Linda and Takeshi Akaogi are experimenting with growing rice on their small farm in Putney. In March 2008, they were awarded a grant to evaluate the viability of rice production in the Northeast and to create a supply of seed for other interested farmers. The goal of their “Northern Rice Project” is to introduce rice as a commercial crop to this region.

The Akaogis’ first attempt to grow rice was in 2006. The plants grew, but did not produce any viable seed. In 2007, they had better luck. In just a 25' x 25' paddy, they grew and evaluated 21 different varieties and by season’s end identified six varieties that produced seed. This past year they expanded their growing area to 4,320 square feet and evaluated 30 varieties for seed production. Of these 30 varieties, 25 were found to produce seed.

When evaluating the quality of the varieties that produce seed, several criteria are used for selection, with date to maturity/harvest being the most important. Another factor is resistance to both disease and lodging. Takeshi says once varieties are found that meet these criteria, they will then select for yield as well as taste. The Akaogis have already connected with Susan McCouch and Gen Fumio Onishi of Cornell University, who specialize in rice breeding.

To grow their rice, Linda and Takeshi constructed a rice paddy that is 6–8 inches deep and allows for controlled flooding. Nearby is a reservoir constructed for water storage and heating. Cold water comes into the reservoir from a nearby brook and is naturally heated before entering the paddy.

In April, seeds are soaked for 10 days at 50 degrees and then planted in plug flats. The plants are transplanted into the paddy by mid–May, about a month after seeding in the greenhouse. When transplanted, the tender plant only has one shoot, so it’s important that there be warm water in the paddy. Linda and Takeshi routinely monitor the temperatures of the water and soil in the paddy to ensure that growing conditions are optimal. The water level in the paddy must be half the height of the plant.

By June, the number of stems per plant increases significantly and the plants are much taller. In July, some varieties begin to head out and start producing grain, with September being the month of harvest. Since the Akaogis’ production is still on a fairly small scale, all the rice has been harvested by hand. To do this, plants are bundled, dried, threshed, and then later de–hulled.

So what are the requirements to grow rice? First, the soil must have the ability to hold water, and because of its need for water, rice must be grown in an area that has a good watershed with an abundance of water. Second, the crop needs a certain accumulation of heat throughout the growing season; to further evaluate this, Linda and Takeshi have been collecting accurate weather information for the past year.

The Akaogis’ farm is located in southeast Vermont at 900 feet above sea level. Due to its altitude, the farm may have one of the coldest climates in Vermont for the production of rice. Linda and Takeshi believe that rice grown in the lower–lying Champlain Valley region may do well given that area’s longer growing season. However, trials are needed at other locations to compare. This past year, several individuals grew rice plants in buckets at various locations around Vermont. The participants monitored growth and collected data throughout the season. This information will help determine potential growing areas in the state.

There may also be potential for rice to be grown on marginal land with poor drainage—although this does not mean wetland areas. Linda and Takeshi have stressed that wetlands need protection and are not suitable for rice production because the amount of water flowing in and out of them cannot be controlled. On the other hand, there is plenty of agricultural land in Vermont considered marginal. Many wet fields are already being cropped for hay, for example.

Linda and Takeshi see a lot of potential for rice production in Vermont. Besides transforming marginal land into productive paddies, farmers could recycle wastewater from their operations—such as wash water from vegetable production—and use it for irrigating a rice paddy. Rice paddies on dairy farms could purify water running off from the barnyard, and remove nutrients before they enter a waterway.

In addition, the Akaogis have already observed five species of frogs and three species of dragonflies that have come to reside in their paddy, indicating that rice paddies could benefit the biological landscape.

Rice production would also benefit the greater Vermont community by increasing the diversity of agricultural products available here. Vermont–grown rice would create a niche market for farmers while increasing our self–sufficiency. And in contrast to organic California rice, Vermont rice would be organic and local.

Photo by Cheryl Bruce

About the Author

Cheryl Bruce

Cheryl Bruce

Cheryl Bruce works for Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF), the certification branch of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.


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A quarterly magazine devoted to covering local food, sustainable farming, and the many people building the Vermont food system.

Vermont's Local Banquet Magazine illuminates the connections between local food and Vermont communities. Our stories, interviews, and essays reveal how Vermont residents are building their local food systems, how farmers are faring in a time of great opportunity and challenge, and how Vermont’s agricultural landscape is changing as the localvore movement shapes what is grown and raised here.


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