Farm & Mill Tour Goes Virtual for Maximum Impact

Photo collage of Jerome Grant,-Blake Gerard, & Matthew Sligar
From left: Chef Jerome Grant, Blake Gerard, and Matthew Sligar
Jan 10, 2022
NEW ORLEANS, LA – Attendees at the 2021 USA Rice Outlook Conference got a sneak preview of the new USA Rice virtual Foodservice Farm & Mill Tour that’s now posted on the USA Rice website.  The annual tour showcases where and how rice is grown in the U.S. and conveys the importance of sourcing domestically grown rice within foodservice operations and was pushed online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In years past, the tour was on a rotating schedule through major rice producing states and the tour was due to take place in Missouri in 2021.  Instead, we pivoted to an eleven-minute virtual experience that provides greater access to more participants,” said Cameron Jacobs, USA Rice director of domestic promotion.  “The video’s host is the award-winning chef, Jerome Grant of Jackie’s American Bistro in Washington, DC, who was in the group that toured Mississippi rice country in 2019.”

The video introduces viewers to American rice farmers who share every aspect of rice production from planting to harvest to milling.  Themes of conservation, biodiversity, and sustainable growing practices are spotlighted, with a particular emphasis on food safety and the important differences between U.S.-grown rice and imported rice.  

Fourth-generation rice farmer Blake Gerard, from Alexander County in southern Illinois, and third-generation rice farmer Matthew Sligar, from Gridley, California, take turns explaining the domestic rice industry’s long-term commitment to sustainability and the unique differences in rice production and varieties grown in California and the southern rice producing states.  

“Sustainable farming means that we need to care for our environment, we need to care for the water, we need to conserve our resources so that we can continue using them into the future,” Sligar says in the video.  “This environment is my work environment so the last thing I want to do is deplete it and that’s what I think farming is all about.  It’s taking what you can from the land and giving back to it.”

For the milling portion of the experience, viewers watch the process at the state-of-the-art facility of Sun Valley Rice in Arbuckle, California.

Seeing the complete rice production cycle in action, viewers get a unique understanding of the amount of work, care, and thought that goes into producing U.S.-grown rice.  They come away with an appreciation of the high standards U.S. rice delivers in quality, sustainability, and food safety.

“Our new virtual tour will be distributed to foodservice audiences with a combination of e-blasts and paid media and is now available for download to all USA Rice members,” said Jacobs.  “While this approach does enable us to reach a greater sample of our target audience, we do look forward to restarting the physical tours in the near future.”