Commercial rice growing takes root in Vt.

FERRISBURGH — Last Wednesday morning, some 100 students and adults wearing traditional cone-shaped hats stood ankle-deep in a flooded rice paddy pushing delicate yellow sprouts into the clay soil.

No, this wasn’t a tableau from Southeast Asia — it was right here in Addison County at Ferrisburgh’s Boundbrook Farm.

While not a typical New England planting scene, Boundbrook Farm is not a typical Vermont farm. Erik Andrus and his wife, Erica, run the 110-acre diversified farm, and they also bake and distribute bread under the name Good Companion Bakery…

“Most rice production that’s currently going on in the state is on a small scale,” said Darby. “There hasn’t been a lot of work done on pest management or fertility.”

Darby said she hopes to work with Andrus as he expands the scale of the operation to do research that will help other farmers to add rice to their mix of crops.

“There’s an increasing demand for information on diversified crop production,” she said. “We’re seeing a lot of new crops, and a lot of old crops being revived.”

Andrus expects one acre to produce about 4,000 pounds of rice.

“It’s an incredibly productive crop,” he said. “It’s as good as corn, but the cash value is much higher.”

And although there is an American rice industry, Andrus said the shifting food market in Vermont has created a great demand for rice that’s locally grown. In fact, he’s already sold his entire expected harvest — half to a grain co-op in Massachusetts and half to City Market Co-op in Burlington….

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