Harvest Season in Ninh Binh
It's harvest time in Ninh Binh, the farmers are busy in the rice fields, the streets are covered with rice being dried out and the straw is being burned off ready for the next crop. Rice is the main food source for Vietnamese people so as you can imagine we grow a lot of rice. In Ninh Binh we can harvest the rice two times a year except for some parts in Tam Coc where they can only harvest once a year.
Over time the way the rice is harvested has slowly been changing and the introduction of farming machinery has meant a little less work for the farmers. It's been a while since I went to harvest the rice with my family but when I was growing up then I would help my family to harvest the rice and it was hard work back then. June is one of the hottest months in Vietnam so we would wake up early around 4am, make our way to the rice field and cut the rice by hand, being careful not to cut ourselves as the rice plant is actually quite sharp. After cutting the plant it is left to dry on the field for a few hours before being bundled together to transport it to the main road or to the house if not so far.
Traditionally to separate the rice from the plant farmers would use a big stick made from wood or bamboo but after some time people came up with the idea to make the little machine from steel to separate the rice from the plant. It is a foot pedal machine and you need to hold the rice plant firmly while the machine spins and the friction causes the rice to separate from the plant. The next step is to separate the not good rice and the good rice so it can be dried out and cleaned again before storing in the box or bags ready to be consumed for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Mostly in Ninh Binh, the farmer grow the rice for their own consumption and sell the excess to make some money.
Today in Ninh Binh then you will see most of the rice fields are being harvested by the machine which takes a lot less time and is a lot easier for the farmers. After the machine has harvested the field they then transport the rice back to their homes and put it out to dry on the roads, even on the main road at the moment you can see the rice being laid out to dry in the sun. At night time they will put the rice back in the bag and put it out again in the morning, normally we have to dry the rice for around 2 to 4 days depending on the weather.
It's not possible for the machine to harvest the rice fields that have softer soil so these fields are still harvested by hand, separated by machine and then dried out. That's why when you travel in Vietnam today it's still possible to see many farmers harvesting the rice by hand, especially in Tam Coc you will see that most of the rice fields are harvested by hand and not machine. If you are interested to see the rice being harvested in Ninh Binh then you should visit in Early June or Late September to Early October.