A Day on the Farm: My First Rice Harvest

Over the past five years, when I have thought about “hard work” it has almost exclusively meant building a presentation or fixing an excel model. This past weekend I was exposed to the strenuous work of hand harvesting rice for sake.

The day started with alarm clocks buzzing at 6am and the team suiting up in jumpsuits and rubber boots. Walking down to the field felt like what I imagined entering a coal mine to be like — everyone dreary eyed and suited up, preparing for a day of seemingly endless physical labor.

The first step was building a structure to hold the rice while drying. This structure stands roughly eight feet tall and is bookended by three wood poles leaning against each other. From there, three bamboo poles, stretching approximately 35 feet are laid horizontally with about three feet between them. The bamboo is tied to the central mast with thick sailors rope. The structure, in final size, stands roughly ten feet tall and stretches three hundred feet long.

The next step is to cut the rice. The rice stands roughly three feet tall in clumps of about ten reeds per root. The process of manually cutting requires one to bend down, and cut the rice stock from the base of the root. While this may be seen as the quickest step in the process, it is important to act with precision as any rouge grain or reed of rice could ruin next year’s soil. After cutting the stock at its base, one should place the rice stock in piles of a few hundred reeds and move on.

After the rice is cut, the tying of the rice comes next. This is undoubtedly the most intricate and time intensive step in the process. To properly tie the rice, one should take about fifty rice reeds and group them tightly together. With a slice of rice stock, the rice reeds are tied together with a sturdy double-knot. After they are tied, the rice bundles are placed rice-down on the tower for their final drying position.

All in all, our team of 10 plowed almost a half acre in 12 hours of very intense work. We will have to wait until the Kakeya is produced this winter to taste the fruits of our labor.

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