Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Growing Rice in Belize

This is a rice field. Although the camera is not level... the field is. On Thursday we took a trip to Blue Creek to see how rice is grown and processed. The farm we visited has 2000 acres planted in rice. The fields are rectangular and "small" so they can be level plots. This helps the water irrigate the field evenly. How do you plant 2000 acres of rice?
With planes! Interesting.

Where are the weeds? When they drop the rice seed from the planes they let it sit on the 3 inches of water in the field for about two days. The seeds slowly float down to the soil. Then they drain the water off and let the roots find their way into the dirt. After about 10 days they flood the field again to keep the weeds and bugs out.

This field has been cut. They plant in January and cut the rice from May through June. After the rice is cut, they level the field again and then flood it. The water keeps most weeds and bugs out.

This is Mr. John Peters. He is one of the co-owners of this 2000 acre rice farm. Here he is showing us two different kinds of rice. One has a very rough hull and the other has a smooth hull.

This is the pump that draws water from a drainage ditch and pushes it out into the fields. The concept is: if you bring the water up to a level that is higher than the field, by gravity it will spread across a level field. When you turn off this flow of water that is raised up, the excess water from the field will drain back into the ditch.

What beautiful fruit. Has anyone tasted this? Or know the name?

This combine is HUGE!

Everyone got to sit inside.

A pose in the shade of the combine.

A pose in the sun...(Jaheed and Rayan missed this trip and Alejandro was at his gardening internship.)

Mr. Peters explains how the rollers take the hulls off of the rice. A side note about the T-shirts: Aren't they nice? :-) We will muck them up on the last day of school signing our names and writing good luck phrases on them.

At the end of the tour Mr. Peters gave us 40 pounds of rice. When we got back to school we split it up into 4 pound bags and each child got one. I cooked it up Saturday night to feed to the boys for Boys Bible Study. It was wonderful! This brand called "Uncle John's Rice" is not pastey and it is super clean. Rice in Belize is sifted for rocks and hulls. The small pieces of broken rice also fall through the sifter. Some rice processing plants sell the crummy rice plus pebbles plus hulls for 25 cents a pound. (The good rice is about $1.50 a pound.) So the shop keepers buy a bag of each and mix them and then sell the mix for $1.30. They make a huge profit...but the result is most of us in Orange Walk rarely see clean rice. When you buy the rice in the shop you have to spend about 30 minutes sorting it by hand to remove the pebbles, hulls, bugs and other pieces of crud. This rice is completely free of "crud". It's delicious. All the parents commented on how clean the rice is. I'm glad we got such a big sample. What a generous gift.

After lunch we played a short while on this neat swing at the Blue Creek School playground. The whole contraption reminds me of a horse walker.

You pretty much just sit and hang on.....

while someone runs around in circles pulling everyone. Sulmi laughed the whole time whether she was in the swing or doing the running. It was a good break before heading back to the van and our hour drive back to school.

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