How the rice you eat gets to your plate

When walking through the rice fields of Jatiluwih Bali we were privileged to see rice in many stages of development.  Because they were terraced and many different farmers were processing it, different farms were at different stages of development.

Terraced steps provide a unique opportunity for irrigation.  Like a tower fountain, the top field is irrigate and then a series of moats and cut sections allow the water to overflow irrigating all fields below it.  Unlike, large scale farming, each farmer has a few terraces, as that is all they can handle.  So irrigation must be timed and coordinated with when other folks below need it.
If not, the extra water is barricaded off and directed towards a series of canals between all the walkways.
The fields are flooded and the water is allowed to soak into the soil.  This loosens up the soil for the next steps.
After soaking in water, the field it tilled. This labor is done via animal.
If the farmer can afford it, and if the machine can get to that paddy, it is tilled by machine.  After tilled, a board is used to smooth the mud and make it even.  The field is submerged in water the whole time.  During this process, the bags of compost are added to the rice field.
A rice nursery field is started in a small section. Here the rice is grown from seed to about 6 inches high. It is grown tightly together to save space in other parts of the paddy for maturing plants.
After 6 inches high it is picked from the roots and clumped together to distribute for hand planting in the paddy field.
Bali_jatiluwih_2 The clumps above are taken and distributed for planting.  They must be planted a certain width apart, and at a certain depth.  Farmers don’t take rulers to do this.  They have a feel for this thing. Sometimes farmers plant individually, other times, they get help if the paddy is larger.  Most of the farmer I saw wore no shoes or boots.  Ankle-calf deep in mud bent over, shoving shoots into the earth.  Back breaking work.
From here you can see the spacing.  Rice then soaks in water and allowed to mature.
The rice paddy is kept flooded until a few weeks before harvest.  As the rice reaches maturity the water is gradually drained out of the paddy.  But for the majority of it’s growing experience, it remains in a pool of water to keep weed from growing.  So that is a lot of water, some estimates are between 4000-5000 liters (That’s 1042-1320 gallons) of water per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of water.  Ironically, it doesn’t need that much according to V Vinod Goud (Click Here).
When mature, the rice is cut by hand with a sickle.  The farmer grabs a handful, and slices.  After, the rice is laid out to dry
Dried rice stalks are thrashed on a collecting mat.  The thrashing breaks the rice out of it’s holding husk.
The rice is then packaged for distribution. As you can see different types of rice are grown on the terraces to satisfy different demand and get a different price.
Back at the fields the thrashed stocks, without the rice, is returned to the field and burnt to return some of the nutrients to the land.  The field is flooded, soaked, and the process starts all over again.  In all, a gluttonous white rice paddy goes through this process three times in a year.  A brown or black rice paddy will go through it twice a year, and hence cost significantly more. There is always work to be done.  Whether it’s feeding or tending to the family cow (this entails cutting grass in forest fields and bringing it back to the cow), the work described above, or helping a neighbor farm.  There is little to no leisure time.  This is not a get rich quick crop.  It is a subsistence crop.  And given the amount of time and effort, it guarantees farmers will stay farmers.  It takes herculean efforts to make a change.


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