A life of rice farming: family continues tradition of rice farming in Matagorda County
Sept. 18, 2010 at 4:18 a.m.
Editor's Note: This is the first part in an ongoing series looking at the rice industry in Matagorda County.
BAY CITY - For Harley Savage, rice farming comes naturally.
"Rice farming is in my genes,' he said. "It's a specific kind of life."
For close to 100 years, his family has produced rice in Matagorda County.
And he has taken part in 56 of those years, he said.
The success of rice planting and harvesting for his family, lead to Triangle Rice Farms, a family owned rice farm.
Deep roots in Matagorda County began in 1828 when his family migrated from New York and settled in the area where they raised cattle, and by the early 1900s, his father and grandfather began rice farming.
Now, his two sons, Stewart and Kirby, along with two of his grandchildren Stew and Scott, are a big part of the family business.
Each has a different role in running the business, from driving the combine harvester to making sure the fields have enough water. All is done with just one goal in mind - to produce rice.
"Rice farming is like rolling the dice," said Steward Savage. 'You never know what each year will bring."
Rice farming takes patience and skill, he said.
Rice farming is a year-round occupation, as harvesting for the year is happening, planning for next year's crop takes place, said Harley Savage.
"There is never any down time, it is a 365 day operation," he added.
As they prepare the fields, they make sure the land is plowed and cultivated.
Planting is done by mid-February or March and harvest comes in July.
First crop of planting takes about 120 days.
The traditional method for cultivating rice is flooding the fields.
"After the first cutting of the rice, the second stubble begins to start up from the base of the plant and the new shoots come out, and those develop into the new rice," Harley said.
The second crop takes about 90 days.
Harley said harvesting rice has come a long way from the old days of farming.
"Rice farming method has stayed the same, it is the technology and equipment that has made it easier," Harvey said.
Harley remembers when he started farming rice it would take them a full day to prepare 20 acres of land using a small tractor. With today's equipment, it may take a full day to prepare 200 acres.
Equipment has also allowed for them to harvest rice easier and quicker.
"When we harvested rice then, we had a 60-man thrashing crew to run a thrashing machine and thrash the grain, then separate it and put it in bags and haul it away," he said.
"Now that there are several generations of my family involved in the business, my dream is to see this continue and to pass on the legacy to the next generation," Harley said
His grandson, Scott Savage, attended Texas A&M University and studied agricultural management.
"I am bringing what I learned at school and apply it here at work," he said.
Scott said he had an advantage at school, because he worked at the farm after high school.
Both grandchildren will learn from Harley's two sons, Harley said. "They pass on what I have taught them to the next generation. It is rewarding to see that they are out there to continue this and they want to do it well."
This way of life will not make someone rich, but will make someone a decent living, he said.
"This will give you a way of life that's enjoyable and ties to the purpose of why we are here, to take care of the land," he added.