The Maine Rice Project recently received a grant from Maine Technology Institute to expand its rice growing operations.

Project organizers are searching the state for new locations on which to build larger, more advanced rice paddy systems. They are looking to partner with existing farms interested in incorporating rice paddies into their farm operations, or leasing land for paddy cultivation. They plan to build at least one paddy system in the range of 1-4 acres. Site work is expected to begin spring 2019, according to a news release from the Maine Rice Project.

A good rice paddy site will need to have the following basic characteristics: Clay soil; uphill pond with good capacity, or place to dig one; slight slope for water management; and zone 4b or warmer.

Those who have land with these characteristics, who are interested in the possibility of growing rice, or having rice grown on their propertiesm should email w[email protected].

The Maine Rice Project is based in Fairfield. It was founded in 2015 by Ben Rooney. The project’s primary goal is to get more people in Maine growing and eating local, sustainably grown rice and other grains.

“We believe that integrated polyculture grains farming can increase profitability of small farms in Maine, while taking good care of surrounding ecologies and waterways,” said Rooney, according to the release.

For the past five years Rooney has grown rice at Wild Folk Farm in Benton. The Maine Rice Project at Wild Folk Farm is the only commercial rice operation in Maine, and one of the largest in the Northeast.

The project 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.

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

For more information, contact Asher Woodworth at 332-4911 or [email protected].

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