The farming of rice began about 5000 years ago in China and a little later in India. References in the writings of Theophrastus and Strabo reveal that rice was an agricultural crop in Ancient Greece.In Messinia rice farming was introduced in 1919 at the initiative of the Agricultural Agency of Messinia in the area of Messini (also known as ‘Island’). From there, it spread to other areas, such as Mikromani and Sperchogeia.
At the beginning, production was satisfactory, but in 1935 it was declared unprofitable and stopped, along with other cultivations (tobacco and cotton). Since the 1980s there are ongoing efforts for the continuation of rice production at the Messinian plain, especially at the marsh of Sperchogeia.
Land preparation involves plowing and harrowing to ‘till’ or dig-up, mix and level the soil.
Even and leveled lands are chosen for the sowing of rice seeds. These lands need to be near to water sources since rice needs plenty of water in order to grow. The first activity before sowing is the plowing of fields in mid-March with the use of a plow or pickaxes. The field is then divided into blocks, which can be square – shaped (7 m x 7 m) or rectangular (13 m length x 8m width) and separated by bunds that have the capacity to retain water. The bunds with a height of 0.40 m and a width of 0.30m run across the rice fields. The forming of such bunds is necessary because it protects the rice blocks from strong winds that can uproot the rice. After the division of fields, the blocks are filled with water so that breaking up and smoothing out the surface of the soil by harrowing is done more efficiently. Before sowing in May, rice seeds soak into water in order to become heavier and sink quickly inside the soil without being carried away by the water.
In the past, the sowing would be done with the seeds thrown by hand while nowadays the seeds are sown with the use of a funnel adjusted on a specially designed tractor. Afterwards weeding follows, the uprooting of dangerous unwanted weeds that grow next to rice, like barnyard grass. From June to September women and men from all over Messiniahand weed the Messinian rice fields. From the end of September until the end of October the harvest of rice takes place. The gathering was done by scythe and later with rice threshing machines. After harvest, rice is spread out on threshing floors, rooftops or streets for 4-5 days until it is completely dried. Then threshing with machines that separate the grain from the rest of the plant follows and the grain is taken to dryers and husking machines. The process ends with the packaging of the grains into jute sacks and the promotion of the product for sale.