Maine Rice Project seeks land to expand growing operations

May 17, 2018

Fairfield — The Maine Rice Project recently received a grant from Maine Technology Institute to expand its rice growing operations. It is searching the state for new locations on which to build larger, more advanced rice paddy systems. MRP wants to work with existing farms interested in incorporating rice paddies into their farm operations, or leasing land for paddy cultivation. It is planning to build at least one paddy system in the range of one to four acres. Site work is expected to begin in the spring of 2019.

A good rice paddy site must have the following basic characteristics:

1) Clay soil;

2) Uphill pond with good capacity, or a place to dig one;

3) Slight slope for water management;

4) Zone 4b or warmer

MRP encourages those who have land with these characteristics and who are interested in the possibility of growing rice or having rice grown on their properties to contact it at wildfolkfarmers@gmail.com.

MRP will design and build paddy systems based on individual site characteristics, working with farm owners to ensure designs integrate well into their current operations. One of the advantages of growing rice in Maine is that rice paddies work best in poorly drained, clay-rich soil, of which Maine has an abundance, and which do not typically suit growing vegetables and other crops.

MRP has seen a rapid rise in the demand for its rice, in both food and seed, in the last two years. The 2017 harvest was its largest, at 3,000 pounds. Orders come mostly from restaurants, natural food stores and individuals. Demand has significantly outpaced what MRP can supply at this point, and the market is calling for increased production.

Maine has considerable wetland and clay-rich acreage, much of it on farmland that is quite fertile, but unusable for most forms of agriculture. Rice is a crop that grows well in these conditions, and thus could substantially increase the economic productivity of these farmlands.

For more information, call Asher Woodworth at 332-4911, or email asher.woodworth@gmail.com.

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