I’m on a narrow road punched with potholes and uneven gravel. To both sides of me are fields of water stretched to the far edge of the horizon. If I were on an airplane looking down, I’d see a gorgeous mosaic of mirrors, silvery and still, divided into perfect rectangles.

Rice farmer Charley Mathews Jr.’s family has been working the land in California’s Sacramento Valley since the late 1800s. We’re standing near the water-swollen paddies that populate his 700-acre farm in Yuba County, an hour north of Sacramento proper. The soil is compacted, and the hardpan, a few feet beneath the surface, restricts fluid percolation. This is a good thing. The land, once regarded as wasteland, is perfect for rice farming, turning fields into giant bathtubs. Mathews’ great-grandfather, who came to California from Ireland, started his business growing produce to feed the miners in the gold fields. “Miners, all they had was gold dust. They were starving,“ Mathews says.

Keep Reading

Making Every Grain of Rice Count in the Philippines

A campaign to promote responsible rice consumption claims millions could live for a year off the rice every Filipino wastes each day.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

Without fail, my mom asks the same question at our go-to restaurant: “Where’s the rice?” At house parties, the procession around the large buffet-style spread usually starts at the rice cooker. The grain is a staple of my Filipino family meals, and I’m far from alone.

Keep Reading