3rd Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: Geography: Why is the Sacremento Valley in California a good place to grow rice?


Rice is grown on every continent except Antarctica. Farming rice is more advanced in the United States than any other country in the world. The major rice growing states are Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. California, located in the western part of the United States, is a major rice producer in the country. It has an area of 158,693 square miles. The Sacramento Valley is the rice region of the state.

The flat, fertile valley is located near the center of California between 38 ¾° to 40 ¾° N latitude. Protecting the valley to the east are the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Cascade Mountain Range. To the west is the Coast Mountain Range. There is desert area to the south of the valley and rugged terrain to its north. The mountains, desert and terrain provide a protective area for the Sacramento Valley. The valley provides an ideal climate for growing rice.

The pure mountain water from the mountain ranges are used in growing California rice. The kind of rice that California produces grows well in the moderate climate of the Sacramento Valley. All U.S. rice farmers use irrigation to grow rice. California rice farmers use water from winter snow that comes from the mountains and is stored in reservoirs until it is needed. The supply of water for California rice is very reliable. The long, sunny days of Sacramento Valley summers provide energy for fast plant growth that produces lots of rice grains.

Rice was first planted in California during the 19th century. The 1849 Gold Rush brought people from all nations to California. About 40,000 came from China. Their main food was rice. To feed the many Chinese immigrants, growing rice became important.

Rice farming began in the early part of the 1900s. In 1912, a group of farmers from Butte County harvested rice on 1,000 acres of land. It was a huge success. Word of their success spread. Within four years, rice farming had increased to 50,000 acres.

Farmers in the Sacramento Valley found rice would grow well in the heavy clay soil of the valley. Other crops would not grow well in the heavy clay soil. By 1920, California was a major rice-producing state.

More than 95 percent of California rice is grown in the Sacramento Valley. About 500,000 acres of rice are planted each year in California. In an average year this amounts to 1.7 million metric tons of rice!

Using irrigation and technology, California rice farmers make good use of water resources and terrain to produce world quality rice. Rice farmers from throughout the United States work hard to grow the highest quality of rice in the world.


On a map of the United States, find the Sacramento Valley in California. Color your map and identify the mountain ranges and terrain that surrounds Sacramento Valley.


Develop a travel brochure for immigrants from China who want to come to the U.S. for the Gold Rush.


  • cultivation
  • latitude
  • terrain
  • immigrants
  • reservoir

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
Rice Farm Animals:
Rice farms have lots of animals. Click here to learn more about rice farms and the animals that live there.
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