By Jim Morris

It pays to have your head on a swivel these days in Sacramento Valley rice country. The next few weeks mark the convergence of the two major tenets of our industry – growing America’s sushi rice and providing vital wildlife habitat.

rice harvester


With a half-million acres of rice in the Sacramento Valley, a trip north of Sacramento on any major thoroughfare will feature a lot of harvesters and bankout wagons bringing in this year’s harvest. Months of careful management have led to this payoff. Mid-morning, once the dew has dried, and continuing well into the evening, growers driving hi-tech harvesters are bringing in billions of pounds of rice. It is amazing to me that, in less than 20-seconds, a farmer harvests enough grain to feed a family of four in America for a year! Look for the harvest to continue into November.

birds taking flight from flooded rice field

Wildlife Habitat

Soon after harvest, a shallow amount of water is added to the rice fields and – almost overnight – the wildlife arrives. The timing is amazing and the results are jaw-dropping!

I can’t wait to get more photos and video of our beautiful seasonal visitors, with Snow Geese beginning to arrive in greater numbers, Sandhill Cranes well established and even an early Bald Eagle sighting near Yuba City!

If you want to check out this fantastic intersection of farming and wildlife, here are a few suggestions:

sacramento national wildlife refuge

  • Wildlife Refuges in our valley are phenomenal. The best viewing is from November through February. Take your time when you visit and, on auto routes like Yolo, Colusa and Sacramento National, try a second loop. You might be surprised at the additional wildlife discoveries made from repeating the drive!
  • You can easily see rice harvest scenes from any of the highways in our valley. Highway 45 is a road less travelled with a lot of activity from rice and other farms. For up-close views of harvest, check out our YouTube Page and Rice Farming TV with grower Matthew Sligar, who does a fantastic job showing what happens year-round on their family farm in Butte County.

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.