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Your Farmer’s voice: Riet Vell

How has the cultivation and harvest of the rice been?

Last year the harvest went well. Keep in mind that organic rice is a crop that grows in summer with high temperatures and the earth flooded. Hence it strongly competes with weeds and production is usually much lower than in conventional farming. This is the reason why there are not many producers in Europe who carry out organic agriculture of rice and especially in areas where it is very difficult to carry out a crop rotation, such as the Ebro Delta.

Has this year’s rice had something to highlight?

Not especially, at least when it comes to grain quality. The meteorology accompanied us throughout the crop cycle and the rice has been of very good quality. After the harvest, some important storms did occur in the delta, such as the Gloria storm that struck the western coast of the Mediterranean between January 19 and 21 (see info on our website www.rietvell.com). Furthermore, both the winter and the first half of spring have been exceptionally rainy, which has forced us to delay the start of the field preparation work for a long time. These factors we do not know if they could have any influence on this year’s harvest.

The tractor passing through the rice field with birds flying overhead

What tasks have you done on the farm since then?

Once the rice was harvested in October, the fields remained idle for a few weeks, until the fangueo began (to plough up flooded land to incorporate the straw of the rice). Fangueo is a very spectacular task for the large number of birds that take advantage of the numerous invertebrates and small vertebrates that are accessible after the passage of the tractor ploughing and mixing the flooded land. After the fangueo, the fields dry up normally in march, although this year, due to the abundant rain that has already fallen, we have just begun in May to work to prepare the soil for the sowing that we will carry out in June.

What changes have you made to the farm?

We have been working on the improvement of the houses where volunteers who carry out environmental awareness and management tasks on the farm and in collaboration with the Ebro Delta Natural Park normally live. We have also improved one of the water intakes that supply both irrigation in part of the rice paddies and the lagoon that we have inside the farm, thus allowing better management of the wetland with less water consumption.

Farmers working in Riet Vell's rice field in the Ebro Delta

How was the preparation of the boxes?

The experience went quite well. At first we were a little scared to have to prepare in a very short time almost 500 boxes containing white rice and brown rice. Normally the boxes contain only one type of rice and that makes its preparation easier. It also required special attention to the labelling of the boxes and an adequate separation required for logistical reasons. But hey, once we started we saw that with well-organized work it was not so complicated and that little by little it could be managed. In the end everything went quite well, with few incidents and with some congratulatory messages from consumers who had bought the rice, which, logically, turned out to be very positive and stimulating.

We recommend you…

The variety of our rice is called Guara. Originally from the Ebro delta, it is a round rice, very suitable for paellas and similar dishes. It is a rice with great capacity to absorb aromas and flavors. Brown rice is more nutritious and more flavorful, but has a cooking time much longer than white. Many people even soak it for an hour or two before cooking.

The migratory bird observatory on the Riet Vell estate in Spain

For lovers of bird watching…

A link to a webcam that we have located on the farm in a barn owl nest in one of the warehouses will soon be available on the SEO/BirdLife website. Accessing from https://www.seo.org/camaras/, once it is activated, it will be possible to follow the evolution of this nest, which currently has several eggs and is in the process of incubation.

Also, remember that the farm is open to the public and has a bird hide in the lagoon that Riet Vell houses inside. This observatory is recognized as one of the best places in Europe for waterfowl observation.

New challenges

After our positive experience with CrowdFarming last year, we have started a new project in collaboration with a farmer in the Belchite area. A completely different place but, like the Ebro Delta, also very valuable environmentally and where traditional agriculture, in this case of durum wheat, constitutes a fundamental element of the ecosystem. On this occasion, instead of rice, pasta (macaroni and spiral pasta) are offered, coming from the wheat of a field that houses a spectacular roosting of cranes during the winter months.

Juan Carlos Cirera.

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