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Says wild rice processor is needed in Taylor County

Vox Pop

The Taylor County area could use a wild rice processor. Over the past couple decades some of the finest wild rice beds in the state have developed here. Yet those who gather this rice must travel at least 75 miles to have it processed. And since the rice must often be left at the site to be picked up after processing, it can take two trips.

The season usually runs from mid August to mid September. It would be a good job for anyone who’s retired and is a good backyard mechanic and welder because the equipment would probably have to be built and maintained.

For those of you unfamiliar with this, wild rice needs to be parched in a roaster which is usually part of a 250 gal. fuel oil tank with slowly rotating paddles inside and a row of small propane flames below. Next it goes to a thresher similar to the roaster but without the flames and with paddles that move much faster and rub the rice against the inside of the tank. In the best thrashers I’ve seen, the inside of the tank and the paddles are both coated with food grade rubber. The thrasher is also attached to a vacuum system to draw off the chaff. Then it goes to a winnower, usually the type used to clean agricultural grain for seed. They’re usually collector items now. This operation blows out any remaining dust and separates broken and unbroken grains. All equipment must be protected from rain. For this, garages and/or outbuildings are often used. As payment for the processing, the customer usually gives a percentage of the finished product to the processor.

— Mike Riegert, Medford