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The Ralston family knows farming. For 10 generations, their family has been working American soil and for the past two decades has been producing rice. With one foot proudly rooted in their family’s legacy, the Ralstons have taken a bold step into the future. In the last 10 years, a new generation of Ralstons has harnessed the entrepreneurial spirit of those who came before them and are taking their family’s long-standing commitment to sustainability to a new level. Breaking with the status quo, the Ralstons recently broke ground on their new state-of-the-art mill, making them a rare example of a vertically integrated rice farm. Every step, from seed to milled grain, takes place on the Ralston farm — starting of course with the growing process.
The Ralston family farm is located in central Arkansas on the banks of the Arkansas River. Rice is a semi-aquatic plant and must be kept in a ﬂooded environment for much of its growth cycle. To minimize the eﬀects on the environment the Ralstons make use of the resources available to them — both natural and technological. Instead of using groundwater, 100% of the water used to ﬂood their ﬁelds is surface water from the Arkansas river, which helps to keep the natural aquafer intact. They’ve invested in zero-grade leveling technology enabling them to create perfectly ﬂat rice ﬁelds and ensuring minimal water use. Rice plants act as a natural ﬁlter, cleaning the water while it’s in the ﬁelds, so it can be returned to the river clean and clear.
Last Spring, the Ralstons cut the ribbon on their state-of-the-art mill, closing their production loop and realizing their farm-to-fork dream. The amount of control the new mill allows is impressive. Equipped with the newest technology, the mill runs at high levels of eﬃciency and its laser precision minimizes potential waste produced during the milling process. Their new mill has also allowed them to signiﬁcantly decrease their carbon footprint by having all steps of the farming process in one place!
An interest in the quality of the rice itself is at the core of these investments in the land and in sustainability. In addition to traditionally-grown long grain rice, the Ralstons also produce jasmine and basmati rice, aromatic varietals not commonly grown in the United States. The Ralston Family Farms’ whole grain arsenal also includes a product they call Nature’s Blend, which is as unique as the farm itself. Not mixed in the mill, this blend of traditional brown rice, aromatic purple rice (with the same antioxidants found in chocolate), and red rice (containing nutritional properties found in blueberries) is harvested from a common mixed-varietal ﬁeld — a surprising product of chance cross-pollination. This happy accident of nature seems to embody the Ralston mission: Be a steward of the land, make use of the resources at your disposal and allow nature to do what it does best — sometimes surprising even the most experienced of farmers.
The Ralston family story is one of long-term thinking – of taking steps to ensure the land is left better than they found it for 10 generations to come. Every September in honor of National Rice Month, the Whole Grains Council features rice and wild rice as our Whole Grain of the Month. So head on over to the September Whole Grain of the Month page and read more about this amazing grain — and don’t forget to grab some delicious recipes to help you celebrate all month long! (Abby)