LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Did you know Arkansas produces more rice than any other state in the country?
It's a huge part of the state’s economy. That's why the Arkansas Rice Federation celebrates Arkansas Rice Month each September. They're utilizing creative ways to encourage Arkansans to support the state’s booming rice industry.
Small grains make a huge difference in Arkansas. Arkansas rice contributes over $6 billion to the state’s economy every year and employs nearly 25,000 Arkansans. The rice industry and its impact is a cause for celebration and an opportunity to raise awareness of its importance.
Lauren Waldrip, Executive Director of the Arkansas Rice Federation, said they chose the month of September to honor Arkansas rice farmers for multiple reasons.
“September is the time our farmers start harvesting every year so this is something we do annually to celebrate the harvest and farmers that grow the safe and quality food supply we enjoy in Arkansas and around the world,” she said.
This year, the Federation is raising awareness of the rice industry by partnering with local restaurants.“Consumers are concerned about where their food comes from and how it was grown so by partnering with restaurants and connecting them with our farmers we can close the loop on that and illustrate that entire process,” said Waldrip.
Local restaurants will be highlighting their rice dishes all month long. Some are doing unique things, too. Participating restaurants are having everything from special rice themed brunch menus to local rice beers and creamy delicious rice grits. Chef Donnie Ferneau with Cathead’s Diner is partnering with the Arkansas Rice Federation highlighting Cathead’s Arkansas made grits. Ferneau said choosing to serve local rice is a priority. He often serves Ralston Family Farms rice.
“When you look at what Arkansas farmers can do you want to stimulate that economic growth and keep that money funneling through so we can consistently have that rice,” he said. “Plus, it just tastes better.” Waldrip is hoping this year's efforts of supporting local restaurants who support local rice will help get more people excited about the industry.
“When you support your neighbors you are supporting the state’s largest industry which is agriculture and that is essentially supporting the state as a whole,” said Waldrip.
For more information about participating restaurants in Arkansas Rice Month plus other events and activities, click here.