December 2009
Eighth Wonder Rice at the Blair House, Washington DC

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Non traditional heirloom grains decorate the Blair House

Eighth Wonder Heirloom Rice was included in a non-traditional holiday display at the Blair House in Washington, DC in December. The Blair House is the guesthouse for international visitors to the White House.

The project, the State Department’s Magazine Holiday Design Showcase, was a joint effort between the State Department and a number of food magazines. Mother Earth News (MEN) made the request for rice for their decorating project. MEN’s nontraditional decorations featured heirloom varieties of the world’s three primary grains–corn, wheat and rice.

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The visually striking heirloom rice was used in the table display

Vicky Garcia, Executive Director RICE, Inc. visits US
October-November, 2009

Vicky Garcia made a long overdue visit to the United States and to Eighth Wonder, Inc. in Montana.

Warehouse shipping in Montana

Warehouse shipping in Montana

During her visit on the East Coast, Vicky and Mary shared their experiences of building an economic development project from the ground up with current graduate students at the SIT Graduate Institute (Vermont, USA), their alma mater.

In Keene New Hampshire, they met with Ben Watson, the US representative to the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity in Italy. With Ben’s help, they made a strategy for nominating three varieties of the heirloom rice to the Foundation’s “Ark of Taste”.   Designation of the rice to the prestigious Ark list could be a stepping stone toward protecting the farmers’ indigenous knowledge and their native rice varieties through international legal recognition that the rice is a distinct cultural product of the Cordillera, made in a traditional, controlled way and is specific to this geographic region.

Along with Lina Hervas-Blair, president of the RICE, Inc. Board of Directors, and her husband, David Blair, they met Chef Victor Beguin of La Bonne Table (New Hampshire). Chef Beguin has volunteered to help describe the rice for marketing purposes and write recipes that will highlight the rice.

Rice on the shelf in a local market

Rice on the shelf in a local market

During her visit in Montana, Vicky saw the many facets involved in the processing, repackaging and marketing the rice. She was able to visit several stores where the rice is sold.  Vicky also attended the Montana Organic Association’s annual meeting and toured several organic food processing facilities in the area.

Helping with online orders

Helping with online orders

October 2009
Terraces featured in National Geographic Traveler magazine

National Geographic Traveler magazine featured the Rice Terraces of the Cordillera in its October 2009 anniversary edition, 50 Places of a Lifetime, highlighting the world’s greatest travel destinations. Mary Hensley, founder of Eighth Wonder, Inc. and the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project, wrote the accompanying essay.

Terraces of the Cordillera, NGT October 2009 issue

Terraces of the Cordillera, NGT October 2009 issue

August 30- September 08, 2009
Ifugao Processing Site

The Ifugao processing site in Banaue was the hardest to secure, mainly because there is little flat land available for development in the very mountainous municipality. Any land available comes with either a very high monetary or political price.

Banaue Processing Site

Banaue Processing Site

Fortunately for the project, a short-term lease was negotiated with the Good News Clinic and Hospital, a non-profit health clinic in Banaue, for the use of a large vacant building that they owned.

The building is an unfinished hotel, which had been started by a foreigner, who was tragically murdered before the hotel’s completion. The building would make a great site for a farmer training center, with its almost finished guest rooms above a large open lobby area. We are very grateful for the generosity of Dr. Antonio Ligot in allowing our use of the building for the short term.

A (processing) room with a view.

A (processing) room with a view.

Since it had been vacant for 5 or 6 years, several hundred meters of electrical wire had to be strung to bring electricity back into the building. Water pipes from the spring across the road had to be reset and opened before the building was useable. Somehow the staff and farmers worked out the logistics.

The machines arrived on schedule and were installed by our fearless team of mechanics, who were making their third installation trip to the Cordillera.

Bags of palay awaiting processing

Bags of palay awaiting processing

But things didn’t go quite as smoothly as in Bontoc. Continuous rains delayed the delivery of the rice by some of the farmers. Numerous breakdowns in the newly installed equipment brought processing to a halt until the manufacturer’s mechanic could return with needed parts and determine why the farmers were having such a difficult time processing the rice. The mechanic finally realized that the grain-sorting table had been manufactured incorrectly. The machine was disassembled, taken to a local welding shop, torched apart and reassembled.

The processing time in Ifugao was extended by four days in the hopes that more farmers could deliver their palay. Although several tons could not be delivered, the farmers were able to process 4.6 tons of finished rice.

The new micro mill in action

The new micro mill in action

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