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This picture has been taken in Katy — a southeastern Texas town that is quickly changing its face from rice farming to residential and industrial areas. Every summer in August, the Katy area rice harvest begins. The fields are turning yellow now, all irrigation is stopped. It’s time for drainage to prepare for the harvest.

Rice grown in the Katy area is regarded as the finest long grain rice grown in the United States. In the early days, the land was full of rice fields, and there were more than 300 rice farmers. That number has dwindled to 9,500 acres planted in rice and about 15 active farmers.

Houston is growing and spreading toward Katy. Each year, some 20,000 acres of the Katy Prairie were converted to urban use, primarily residential, with some industrial and retail. This was coupled with a decline in rice farming. Urbanization has changed the face of this area. Also, rice requires aerial application of pesticides and fertilizer, and as houses go up all around, the use of airplane in rice agriculture is a current dilemma. Driving around the area between Fry Road and Brookshire, I saw many plots covered with grass, unused. With current speed of construction, I am afraid in the next five years, rice field will be the old story for locals to tell when mentioning about their town’s past.




The first person to grow rice in Katy was a German immigrant named William Eule who arrived in 1897. He farmed his first crop with the surface water near his fields. But the second year he dug wells in order to irrigate his fields. His rice yields prospered and soon many other families came to grow rice in the fertile prairie of Katy. Rice was generally cultivated to be sent to market.

Today Katy continues as a growing, small town of about 11,700 people, just 30 miles outside of the city center of Houston, Texas. In fact, the west side of Houston has spread to Katy.

Like in most rice growing regions, Katy enjoys mild winters. Summers in these subtropical regions are warm and humid. Rice farms and the areas around them are generally healthy environments. Studies have shown that water flowing out of a flooded rice field is actually cleaner than when it first flowed into the field. Flooded rice fields are also healthy habitats for waterfowl like geese and ducks.

Rice farming is hard work. But in the United States all aspects of rice cultivation are mechanized. Less hand labor and fewer people are needed to grow rice in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. The rice fields are seeded using grain drills or airplanes. Combines harvest the field and separate the rice grains from the stems of the plant. (Source)




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