When I picture rice crops, I imagine green water logged terraced fields. That was before I visited Nimbin Valley Rice in Goolmangar. Goolmangar is a small village wedged in the valley between Lismore and Nimbin, in Northern New South Wales.
The Northern Rivers region of New South Wales is not a typical rice growing area. Most of the rice grown in Australia comes from the Riverina region of New South Wales and is irrigation grown. I went out to visit Frank Boyle from Nimbin Valley Rice in June 2012. Yes I know this was AGES ago! Better late then never. Before my visit to Frank, I had no idea how rice is grown. I thought it was a root crop and when you pulled a green reed out of the water, little rice grains where hanging down the bottom. Wrong. I also had no idea it was possible to grow rice without irrigation.
Nimbin Valley Brown Rice is called dry land rice. It is grown without supplementary irrigation. Dry land rice has many similarities to wheat but it is harvested when green. In comparison to irrigation grown rice, dry land rice is a more sustainable crop that relies on rainfall.
Frank and his wife Andrea Boyle have a working pecan orchard on their property that they planted over 20 years ago. Frank has lived and worked on farms his whole life but rice is relatively new to him. Quite a few years ago, during the middle of one of Australia’s worst droughts, continued irrigation rice growing in the Riverina was looking dismal. The search was on for high rainfall areas to experiment with dry growing rice methods. Northern Rivers was pinned as a good option. For Frank, it all started with a demonstration crop at the local Ag School he taught at. After witnessing the success of this crop, he decided to try a crop on his own farm in Goolmangar. After processing his first harvest of rice, he packaged it up. Turned out that his 500g pecan bags fitted exactly 1kg of rice, how perfect. He took his first harvest down to his local farmers market and sold 50kg that morning. This was the moment of realisation, an opportunity to try something new. So he came home from the market and decided to launch head on into rice farming.
I visited Frank just after his fourth harvest. I didn’t get to see the lush green crop but Frank so kindly donated his time and showed us around his farm.
Nimbin Valley Rice while not certified organic, does use biological farming practices that are kinder on the soil. Emphasis is placed on working with the soil ecology to farm more sustainably without the use of chemicals.
Frank works the farm, processes, packages and markets his product. This yields a higher price per kilo than selling the rice at wholesale prices. Frank believes his crop would not be economical to grow without doing all the marketing himself. The local farmers markets enable him to connect directly with his consumers. There is a plenty of people out there looking for food that is locally grown without chemicals and made by passionate people. By tapping directly into this market and cutting out the middle man, business remains profitable which enables Frank to spend more time doing what he loves – working his farm.
Nimbin Valley Rice is grown with care and should be consumed with appreciation.
Where can you buy Nimbin Valley Dryland Brown Rice:-
Sourced Grocer, Brisbane QLD
Bangalow Food Works, Bangalow NSW
Nimbin Emporium, Nimbin NSW
PJ Harvey Fruit & Vegetables, Lismore NSW
Causley Fresh Deli Shop, Yamba NSW
Byron Bay Farmers Market, Byron Bay NSW (Thursday – 7-11am Butler Street Reserve)