I have the privilege of traveling the country as a reporter for the public television program America's Heartland. My travels have taken me to farms and ranches across the United States. From historic produce farms in Massachusetts to cattle ranches in the rolling Colorado hills, it has been an amazing journey. So finding a great story within a few miles of home was a nice surprise.
As an Iowa native, I was only somewhat familiar with California's rice industry until my family moved to Sacramento in 2004. Then I found out that California rice is used for sushi from coast to coast! Not only is that something to brag about, it's pretty useful trivia when dining on sushi with friends and family from Iowa to Connecticut! And when I discovered (in a Sacramento Bee article) that California rice also gets turned into sake, I knew it would make a great story for our national audience.
With the help of Jim Morris at the California Rice Commission, we ended up at the DeWit rice farm on a beautiful October morning, to visit with grower Jack DeWit and his son, Mike. After learning about the DeWit's farming background I discovered a connection even closer than the sushi that I eat! It turns out my home sits on ground once owned by the DeWit family. If my thumb was slightly greener I would try to grow some rice in my backyard!
Our story wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Takara USA sake factory in Berkeley, which is on the site of a former dairy processor. And true to form, with sake - some like it cold and some like it hot. Of course the interests of good reporting required sampling various sake drinks at Sacramento's 2011 Sakefest. I believe the story will give our viewers on public television and RFD-TV an entertaining and educational look into a beverage that has California rice at its key ingredient.
There are few things better than discovering new things, and when you make those discoveries close to home, well that's something to drink to!
Jason Shoultz is a Producer/Reporter with the PBS television program America’s Heartland. Follow him on Twitter at: @jasonshoultz. Be sure to watch their upcoming feature story on California rice and sake, debuting Wednesday, February 1. For more information on the show, follow them on Twitter at: @aheartland or on the Internet at: www.americasheartland.org.