It is hot, dry, and dusty here in the Central Valley and the 2015 rice harvest is underway for Hinode. The growing season started with uncertainty as we all waited for water to be allocated across California last spring. But that didn’t curb the commitment our farmers share to continue their family businesses through drought.
Thank you to everyone who cut back their water use this summer. And thank you to all our farmers who managed their resources closely to make this year’s rice harvest possible. With drought and wildfires on our mind, we are excited to share that Hinode rice harvest is progressing smoothly.
We spent some time out in the fields this week to experience rice harvest through the eyes of our farmers. As one Hinode farmer puts it, “Harvest, is rewarding. Driving all the equipment and being so busy. I like seeing everything we grow pile up high in the trailers.”
Another shares, “I sleep well during harvest. No wonder, when my days start before dawn. By sunrise we’ve already met with our team and moved all the equipment to the fields we’re working. ”
Today, we start by checking moisture readings of rice samples cut from the field. The moisture reading results are coming in at 19%. Grains need moisture to minimize damage against machinery used to cut the stalks, separate the grains, dry the rice and especially during the milling process. It protects the grains of rice so they don’t get burnt or broken. The moisture also can’t be too high or it makes the grains susceptible to mildew, spoilage and pests.
We’ve gotten the go ahead to harvest today, but the dew needs time to evaporate before we get started. There is plenty of work to be done as all the equipment is put in place. Harvesters, bankout trucks and belly dump trailers are lined up along the field. We watch them coordinate their location, talking back and forth in code over their radios.
The inside cab of the harvester is very technologically advanced, with GPS guided routes and real time readings of moisture, yields (how many pounds of rice per acre) and position of machinery as it pushes through the stalks of rice. Just when all the settings have been optimized with onboard computations, a sensor indicates the harvester is nearing capacity and needs to empty its rice. Within seconds the bankout truck pulls up parallel to the harvester and we are driving side by side across the field.
An arm swings out from the side of the harvester toward the bankout truck and rice flows out the spout into the bankout truck. Not a second wasted at these slow speeds as we continuously cut, separate and transfer the rice grains all at the same time.
The bankout truck then heads down the dirt road where a belly dump truck is waiting to receive the load of rice. Finally it is time to leave the field and find our way back to the grain silos.
Full of rice, the belly dump truck driver heads to the silos where a team of farmers are awaiting their arrival. The truck drives up on a scale to get their gross weight before dumping its load at the silos.
More moisture readings are taken and documented as the farmers determine how many passes it should take through the “dryer” before storage. A bucket of rice is pulled out of every trailer for testing. After weighing the trucks and testing the rice, the farmer pulls the truck over the grates to dump all of the rice on to a conveyor belt underneath that distributes it into the silo elevators.
In the silos, where the rice will be stored until it is milled and packaged for sale, dryers circulate air through tinny holes in a metal floor while augers circulate the rice around evenly to prevent pockets of moisture from developing.
At the end of this long day of harvest, we take rest and appreciate our surroundings. To our farmers we say “thank you and congratulations on a job well-done.” Many of us are family members working together in the fields, if not by blood, then by the camaraderie for the work we were born to do.
The next time you pick up a bag of Hinode rice at the store, or sit down to eat with your family, we hope you’ll remember this story and the effort that went into each grain of rice. Happy Hinode Harvest from our fields to your forks!
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