Idaho couple thrilled to pay for a uniquely Minnesota experience

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Greg Kvale poles Kirk Adams through a wild rice bed north of Brainerd last week. (Photos courtesy of Greg Kvale)

Kirk and Sara Adams probably shouldn’t calculate the price-per-pound for the Minnesota wild rice they’re taking home to the Gem State.

The Middleton, Idaho, couple enjoyed a grand Minnesota experience on Sept. 1 when they joined Greg and Pete Kvale for a day of wild ricing north of Brainerd. Between two canoes, they harvested 130 pounds of green wild rice, which equates to more than 50 pounds of finished product.

That’s a solid haul, especially during a ricing season when “picks” have been down roughly half from an impressive 2020. The Adams, however, had a substantially larger investment in their day afield than the average ricer: In addition to licenses and transportation, they paid $1,500 for a day of working the ricing knockers and sitting in a canoe full of springtails, spiders, and rice worms.

And they can’t wait to return in 2022.

The couple bought the experience through the national Backcountry Hunters and Anglers online auction during the group’s annual rendezvous in June. The Kvales, active members of the Minnesota chapter (the father-son due also won the organization’s national cook-off at the rendezvous in Missoula, Mont.) volunteered their time and expertise to help raise money for the national organization.

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Between two canoes, Sara and Kirk Adams helped harvest 130 pounds of green wild rice last week. That will process out to between 50 and 60 pounds of finished wild rice.

For Kirk and Sara Adams, it was money well spent, even if they weren’t even sure what “ricing” was 18 months ago. They’d eaten wild rice before, but a Minnesota friend visiting for an Idaho elk hunt really sparked their interest when he brought them some Minnesota manoomin a couple years back. Active in hunting, foraging, and wild game cooking, the couple jumped at the ricing auction opportunity.

“We love cooking big meals and entertaining and sharing our spoils from around the country. We try to hunt or raise all of our own protein,” Kirk Adams said. “I think neither of us had an idea of what it would entail – we maybe expected it would be more like threshing.

“Then we saw sticks and the picture was painted,” he said.

Kvale, who also took the husband-wife duo out for a day of muskie fishing on Thursday, Sept. 2, appreciated that the couple embraced the experience, bugs and all. He also credited seasoned ricers (and former DNR Wildlife staffers) Gary Drotts and Rod Ustipak for helping to locate a healthy, ripe rice bed for the group.

“I love doing this type of thing and sharing experiences,” Kvale said. “We could’ve gotten a couple who would’ve said ‘yuck’ to rice worms or sitting for five hours straight. They were so upbeat all day. Great people to hang out with.”

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The whole team enjoying the day of wild ricing last week included (l-r): Kirk and Sara Adams, of Middleton, Idaho, plus Minnesota hosts Greg Kvale, Rod Ustipak, and Pete Kvale.

Whatever the final price per pound of rice, Sara Adams said it was “worth every penny” and said “the people were the best part,” and the couple may bid for the auction item again in 2022. Either way, they developed new appreciation for Minnesota, its cultural history with the state grain, and day of hard, gratifying work in a wetland.

“As BHA members coming from a state like Idaho with so much public ground, it’s fun to come back east and see public waters and realize how important they are to keep a resource like this available,” Kirk Adams said. “This will not be a one and done. We’ll be disciples of wild rice out west.”

Categories: Rob Drieslein

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