Monday, November 13, 2017

Growing Rice in the South

From Southern Lady:
Ninth-generation farmer Mike Wagner thought he knew all there was to know about growing rice. But when he noticed a change in his soil after ducks and geese had flocked to the area, a realization struck him: he might not need conventional fertilizers or chemicals to raise a healthy crop. “I started experimenting on my own,” he says. “I would cut the fertilizer every year, to no detriment. Now, we farm with nature’s rhythm, and we’ve been farming the land this way for 20 years.

With the help of a tenth generation of Wagner farmers, son Lawrence and daughter Abbey, Mike’s environmentally sustainable long-grain rice has become the basis for Two Brooks Farm, which offers a line of 14 products that include grits and flour as well as rice. Flavor profiles range from the buttery, sweet Delta Belle Long Grain White Rice to the fragrant, earthy Missimati Bayou Bouquet, a Basmati brown rice.

The grits from Two Brooks Farm are nearly as diverse in taste. One of Mike’s favorites is the Original Mississippi Midlands Brown Rice Grits. “They feel like little champagne bubbles in your mouth,” he says. Four rice flours were added to the line after a mechanic at the farm told Mike about his granddaughter’s gluten allergy. Mike dusted off a vintage grist stone and started grinding the byproducts of his rice. With the addition of the flour, Mike says, nothing goes to waste. “We’re trying to get everything out of the hog,” he says, “including the squeal.”

Mike is pleased that the changes he instilled decades ago allow him not only to produce rice rich in nutrients, but also to create positive change in the natural surroundings. He likens his Mississippi Delta farm to a nature reserve that has helped to rebuild the waterfowl habitat, increasing the variety and the population of migrating birds in the area. (Read more.)

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