Brett & Karen Slater produce our Biodynamic Rainfed Rice and Soy Beans on their property, in Fairy Hill, near Casino in the Northern Rivers Region of NSW.
Brett moved to organic farming practices in 1998, converting to Biodynamic 2004, producing Slater Farms first crop of dryland rice in 2009. The rice the Slaters grow is called Tachiminori, a Japanese 'upland' rice requiring no irrigation. While it doesn’t need irrigation, it does enjoy the humidity, perfect for the Northern Rivers Region of NSW, which has an annual rainfall of 1000mm. With most of that falling between January and March. However, while their region was perfect for growing their Rainfed Rice, it did pose a challenge for the Slaters as they were over 1000 km to the closest rice processor, which is situated in the Riverina Region of NSW. This forced the Slaters to take control of their own processing in order to remain viable.
In 2010, they installed their first rice mill. The mill grades and dehulls the grain to produce their beautiful brown rice. In 2021, the Slaters purchased and installed a polisher enabling them to produce white rice. This now gives Slater Farms full control over their produce, giving them the ability to set the price they need rather than the price the market dictates.
The Slaters farm Biodynamically, preparing their fields with green manure crop of field peas, vetches, brassicas and oats, incorporating it into the soil before spraying biodynamic preparation 500. Preparation 500 is biodynamic soil spray and is made from fresh cow manure, buried in cow horns over winter, then aerated and diluted with water. 500 is a powerful soil activator helping root development and growth of the plant as well as humus formation in the soil. If you want to know more about Biodynamic farming methods, there are some excellent resources on Biodynamic farming on the Biodynamic Agriculture Australia and the Biodynamic Association websites.
The Importance of Rainfed Rice
All rice produced on by Karen and Brett Slater is Rainfed Rice, meaing it isn't flooded like traditional rice. Until recently, all rice in Australia was grown in 'flood' irrigated paddies. Regular rice farming, according to the CSIRO, requires around 1550L of water to grow just 1kg of rice. Beyond just being frugal with such a precious resource, rainfed rice also produces less methane as it is grown aerobically. This methane production is from the flooding that is used to control weeds. Water blocks oxygen from penetrating the soil, creating ideal conditions for bacteria that emit methane. The longer the flooding lasts, the more methane is produced.
Currently, methane from rice contributes around 1.5 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, and could grow substantially as rice production continues to increase to feed a growing population.