Our first-ever episode includes a discussion with radio hosts Jack Armstrong & Joe Getty. Topics include the vital role of California rice for our economy and environment, as well as how rice farming largely flies under the radar in terms of public understanding.
Jim Morris: Thanks for listening to Ingrain, the pilot episode of the California Rice podcast. I’m Jim Morris, your host. A little bit of background about what you can expect with this program. We want to go in-depth about why rice matters. For most people, rice is simply that starchy side dish you have once or twice a week, but for much of the world, rice is part of culture. It’s what billions of people eat multiple times every day.
We have a great story to tell here in California. A question I get a lot is, “I didn’t know we even grew rice.” Well, we grow a half-million acres of it. It is premium, world-class quality, and there are tremendous stories in terms of the people involved, the innovation, and an environmental story that’s second to none.
I’m Jim Morris, I’ll be your host. I’ve been in agricultural communications for 30 years. I’ve met thousands of farmers. I don’t mind admitting that I am a homer for agriculture. It is a fundamental thing. Very hardworking, interesting people. I’ve been with the Rice Commission since 2007, and I’ve learned a lot about rice, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
Our first guests, Jack Armstrong and Joe Getty. First of all, guys, congratulations, 21st anniversary of your program. Awesome.
Joe Getty: Thanks, Jim. It’s good to be employed, frankly.
Jack Armstrong: That’s a long time.
Joe Getty: Yeah, it is.
Jim Morris: Well, and speaking of a long time, we are blessed to have been working with you for, this’ll be our ninth year now.
Joe Getty: That’s astounding.
Jim Morris: Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun. I remember the very first thing that we did in the field, I think we did it right, because we plied you guys with a lot of pizza right off the bat.
Jack Armstrong: That’s a good plan.
Jim Morris: Yeah. So you’ve been to the rice harvest. We’ve seen wildlife together. We’ve had sushi. What are your thoughts when I mention the word rice?
Joe Getty: Gosh, I don’t know. Jack, you want to jump in on that one?
Jack Armstrong: We regularly remark, I guess we say this in our commercials a lot when we’re talking about California rice is, how has this flown under the radar to the extent that it has? I don’t understand why everybody in the world doesn’t immediately know that this area is where sushi rice comes from, in the way that we know Wisconsin is the dairy state, or whatever. I mean, because it’s so dominant. It’s absolutely amazing to me.
Jim Morris: It’s interesting, too, that you’ll have rice fields 15 minutes from the state capital.
Jack Armstrong: Right.
Jim Morris: But it’s just something that people don’t really think of, but we’re all about to change that. The thing that the people see more than anything when it comes to rice is that aerial view when you go into the Sac International Airport.
Joe Getty: Yep, which I did only days ago.
Jack Armstrong: Then you think, what is all that water down there? Is that a lake? What is that? Then, yeah.
Jim Morris: And, of course, we’ll talk with them too about that water depth and water efficiency, which is really key for rice. How about you, Joe, when you think about rice what are some things that come to mind?
Joe Getty: Well, aside from being a sushi freak, you know, I’m kind of used to that idea, and that it’s grown here, and that’s really, really cool. But I’ve always prided myself on being a realist, whether we’re talking about politics, or climate change and the environment, and the rest of it. I know that a lot of the wild areas of California have been developed in one way or another. God, where I live, they’re throwing up houses with astonishing speed.
But the part of the California Rice story that I think is so cool is that those rice fields duplicate so much of what the historic wetlands did for the birds, the millions of birds that use rice fields as home, hundreds of species, as we talked about. Also, I’ve long been a fisherman and I enjoy the outdoors. My favorite spot in the world is to be next to a river, and I like fly fishing and the rest of it.
The experiments that California Rice is doing with salmon, whether it’s raising the little fry in the fields or raising the tiny little bugs that salmon eat, I think that’s such a incredible win-win. It’s amazing that it’s really happening, that you could have this industry that’s so important, all these family farms, and they’re doing that much good for the birds and the salmon and the rest. It’s just fantastic.
Jim Morris: Oh, yeah. It’s awesome and it’s great to share that, and that’s not always the case in agriculture, but for rice in particular, you have that 360 degrees of not only producing food, but doing it in harmony with the environment. Thanks for mentioning that, and it’s a great source of pride, and I hope that we as an industry can continue to move forward and do even more.
Joe Getty: Yeah. I grew up in corn country and I’m used to the farmers shooting at birds, trying to get the crows out of the cornfields, the rest of it. Not welcoming them and saying how cool it is.
Jim Morris: Well, we do that, and we love all the birds that are there, and actually, prime nesting season in the spring, and then the amazing migration in the fall and winter, and we’ll be dealing with those subjects and many more on this podcast, Ingrained.
Jim Morris: So let’s talk about podcast. Our family loves One More Thing. My son in particular loves the intro and the guy with the amazingly deep voice.
Joe Getty: The Armstrong and Getty podcast-only segment that we do after the radio show, yeah.
Jim Morris: Yeah, it is excellent, excellent job there. So as you guys do this podcast, what are some of the keys, either for your podcast or for others that you hear, that you think are important to make them as engaging as they can be?
Joe Getty: Oh, man. It’s kind of an instinct. You either have it or you don’t. Am I being entertaining? Is this compelling to other people? Am I finding a way to make it compelling? It’s an art, I guess.
Jack Armstrong: There’s that. It’s got to be interesting on some level, whether it’s funny or information. I get the sense this is going to be information-based, your podcast, a lot. But filling a niche that nobody’s filling. You might be filling a niche nobody is filling in this conversation. I mean, you might really have struck upon something nobody else is doing.
Jim Morris: Well, we hope to, and we want to be real. That’s one of the things that I appreciate, that you guys have done so well over the years, is when you have an interview, you’re not afraid to ask a question beyond, “Give me your 15 second soundbite.” How important is that in the process of getting the real story, because everybody’s spinning and we need to dig a little deeper. We’re willing to do that with rice. We have a great story to tell. You guys do that all the time. How important do you feel that is, and how much of a lost art is that with the media today?
Jack Armstrong: Well, it’s completely gone-
Jim Morris: Well, there you go.
Jack Armstrong: … as an art with the rest of the media. But I think listeners can tell if you’re leaving something out on purpose. They can smell it. They can tell. So you want to give the whole story to the best of your ability. People can pick up on that.
Joe Getty: Yeah, and the whole mile wide and inch deep thing that you’re describing in the media, just, people are worn out by it. It’s just everywhere, omnipresent. You can tell … You’ve got somebody who’s speaking about something really complicated, you’ve got some scientist, for instance. And, “We asked him about a meteor hitting the earth,” and then you can tell it’s edited up to him starting to talk, then he says, “That’s why I think it’s unlikely,” then there is a quick edit out.
You’re thinking, wait a minute, you have one of the world’s leading scientists talking about us being obliterated by a meteor, and you just gave him five seconds? I mean, there’s got to be more to it. So if a podcast is good and you connect with the audience who wants to know about what you’re talking about, yeah, it can be really way more satisfying than the usual media coverage these days.
Jim Morris: Well, really appreciate that feedback, and thanks. Thank you for our relationship, and I can’t believe we’re getting close to a decade. It’s a pleasure to work with both of you fellows. Thank you for your perspective, too. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to dig deeper on this with our webpage as well, podcast.calrice.org. We welcome your questions and we’ll work to answer them. We appreciate you tuning in. Our next episode, our first full episode will cover a great time of the year and that’ll be harvest, so you can look for that coming in early October. Until then, thanks for listening.