WASHINGTON, DC -- Riceland Foods and Ducks Unlimited represented U.S. rice at the second annual Co-op Festival here this weekend, joining dozens of other cooperatives from a wide range of industries for two days of music, food, and public outreach. In honor of October being National Co-op Month, the National Cooperative Business Association and Cooperative League of the USA (NCBA CLUSA) holds the festival every year on the National Mall, educating visitors on the benefits of cooperative enterprise.
Situated in a scenic spot between the Capitol building and Washington Monument, the Riceland booth enjoyed a steady stream of traffic as they handed out free samples of freshly milled rice, still warm from their table-top milling machine. It’s a hands-on way to show people how their rice is processed, from rough paddy rice to brown rice to white rice, and the hulls and rice bran produced along the way.
“We’ve had a ton of traffic this weekend, and we’ve been giving away lots of rice samples,” said Kevin McGilton, Riceland vice president of government affairs. “It’s been a great experience because it’s an educated audience that’s really engaged with where their food comes from and very receptive to our messaging about all the positive qualities of U.S. rice.”
Ducks Unlimited joined the fun with a duck blind that visitors could climb inside, surrounded by a gaggle of duck decoys. Aside from being an excellent photo booth opportunity, the setup was a great way to engage with the public about the U.S. rice sustainability story and the role of rice fields as wildlife habitat.
McGilton pointed out that it’s probably the first and only duck blind set up with the Washington Monument in the background, and in that moment it was hard to imagine a more American image.
“It’s been funny to watch all the little kids try and sneak up on the duck decoys. They creep up, and when they reach down to touch them to see if they’re real, I’m ready with this,” said McGilton, quacking loudly on a duck call.
It gets them every time.