By Jim Morris

Everyone has important work to do during this unprecedented time of COVID-19. Those sheltering in place have done a tremendous job flattening the Coronavirus curve in California.

Essential work continues in California, and that includes rice farms and mills in the Sacramento Valley. Farmers are preparing fields for planting and mills are working hard at shipping rice to meet much higher retail demand. This is happening with expanded worker safety efforts to guard against the virus.

rice seeding plane

Here are a few observations from rice country:

  • Social distancing is a natural part of rural life. Fieldwork is a classic example. One person in one tractor working hundreds of acres if a very typical sight.
  • Farm work is not only essential, it’s uplifting. While so many sectors of our economy are struggling, agriculture carries on. Seeing ground being prepared and airplanes flying rice seed over fields provides hope of new life, completing projects and maintaining a strong supply of a staple food.
  • The shallow-flooded fields have more value than the rice crop itself. Once the five-inches of water are added, wildlife returns in abundance. Seeing species like stilts and avocets reminds me that rice fields provide world-class shorebird nesting habitat.

rice being loaded into transport trucks

In the coming weeks, new life will emerge in rice country. Newly-planted fields will show off their vibrant growth and shorebirds will raise their next generation.

Hopefully the virus battle will soon be won, marking the start of California’s long trek back to something approximating normal. In the meantime, I’m sure I share the feelings of many people, who feel deep gratitude for those helping us all through this pandemic – first responders, medical workers and store clerks, among others. You have the gratitude of many.

Jim MorrisJim Morris is Communications Manager for the California Rice Commission. Jim has worked in communications for more than 20 years. When he’s not on the job, he enjoys his family, faith, football, outrageous monster stories and running marathons.