Matthew Sligar, a third generation rice farmer, was born and raised in Gridley. A fond childhood memory was visiting his father in the fields during harvest, riding in the old tractors and looking out across the vast landscape of golden rice plants. Today, Matthew shares his passion for farming on his YouTube Channel, Rice Farming TV. His fun and educational videos have garnered quite the audience, bringing attention to the industry and the region.
"Gridley and Biggs have fertile soil
--perfect not just for agriculture but also for raising families and creating a strong sense of community."
How did you find yourself in the Biggs/Gridley area? What made you stay?
After graduating from Gridley High School I moved away for 12 years. During that time, I earned a degree in Modern American Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz and moved to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, where I started a successful tourism agency and met my eventual Brazilian wife, Clara. When Clara and I contemplated where to start our family, we considered Prague, Brazil, and California. The safe community of Gridley and the security and opportunities of rice farming guided our decision to return home. That was 7 years ago. Now Clara and I have two wonderful little girls.
Describe Biggs/Gridley to someone who has never been there.
Gridley and Biggs are small, rural, farming communities that you might miss if you blink. Keep your eyes peeled, you may be passing through town next to a large, beautiful tractor. Through traffic has brought most commerce to the highway, but the historic downtowns of Gridley and Biggs are charming and quaint. Gridley and Biggs have fertile soil--perfect not just for agriculture but also for raising families and creating a strong sense of community.
What is the best-kept secret in Biggs/Gridley? Why?
The best kept secret in the Gridley/Biggs area is the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. On the outskirts of Gridley surrounded by agriculture lands, Gray Lodge is approximately 9,000 acres of managed wetland habitat. It’s great for bird watching throughout the seasons. Although, late November to early February is the most magical time as millions of winter migratory ducks, geese, and shorebirds visit the region while traveling along the Pacific Flyway. There’s inspiring photography opportunities, a wildlife museum, an auto-loop, guided tours, and of course, hiking with crisp, fresh air.
What is your favorite season in Biggs/Gridley? Why?
Summer. With the rice crop planted and being nurtured by the sun, I have some free-time for a ton of family fun. The water-playground at Vierra Park is a great place to cool off with kids. The Tuesday Gridley Farmer’s Market at Daddow Park is perfect for meeting up with friends, listening to live music and enjoying a freshly picked peach or apricot. In mid-August the end of summer is celebrated with the Butte County Fair, complete with giant turkey legs and caramel apples (my wife’s favorite), a destruction derby and tractor pull for the big kids, and carousels and giant slides for the little kids.
What are your favorite places in Biggs/Gridley to show out-of-town visitors?
Honestly, I really enjoy showing off our rice fields, tractors and equipment. It often catches people by surprise, hearing that we grow rice in California, so it’s always a pleasure educating curious minds. Aside from the verbal education, there’s the stunning visuals. There’s the yellow agriculture bi-planes at the flying service, the towering rice dryers and storage bins and of course, the sea of rice plants. I suppose that’s why I started Rice Farming TV: I wanted to couple the education with the visuals. I may be too busy to show you personally around, but who knows. Reach out!
If someone only had one day to spend in Biggs/Gridley, what would you recommend they do?
I would have to refer back to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. I may be biased because I'm familiar with much of the wildlife found there as they also frequent our rice fields. Therefore, I have a sentimental attachment. Even if you’re not a “birder”, it’s a great place to walk, talk and snap some photos. Afterwards treat yourself to a banana milkshake (my mom’s favorite) at the Gridley Ice Burgie, located on Highway 99. Tell them I sent you, and you’ll get a free bewildered half-smile. Hey, while you’re at it, and before commuting out of town, you might as well have a burger there too. Yum!