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USA Rice stops in Shepherdstown on East Coast tour

By Staff | Nov 8, 2019

Tom Barton, of Elkins, shows off a bag of red rice he was given by USA Rice in their pop-up shop at Evolve on Saturday. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — Hundreds of rice cookers and bags of rice lined the walls of Evolve on Saturday for USA Rice’s only stop in West Virginia on their East Coast “Think Rice” promotional tour.

Based in Arlington, Va, USA Rice Federation’s first promotional tour was held last year on the West Coast. Both events featured free giveaways of one rice cooker and bag of rice per person, along with the sale of raffle tickets for a new Ford truck that was being used to carry the giveaway items, itself decked out with USA Rice insignia.

“We are a trade organization that represents the U.S. rice industry — that includes farmers, millers and other industry agents,” said USA Rice domestic promotions representative Lesley Dixon.

“Our farmers are all over the country. Mostly in the south, but also in northern California–that’s where a lot of the medium grain and short grain rice, or sushi rice, is grown,” Dixon said, mentioning the southern farms usually grow long grain, jasmine and basmati rice. “The southern rice farmers are in Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi and Arkansas. Arkansas grows the most rice in the U.S.

“We’re giving out rice cookers, which we bought at-cost, because we did some research and figured out that people would be more willing to eat rice if it were easier to cook,” Dixon said, mentioning all of the bags of rice were donated by American farms and millers. “A lot of people don’t even know we grow rice in the U.S. Eighty-five percent of the rice we eat in the U.S. is grown in the U.S.”

USA Rice domestic promotions representative Michael Klein talks about American rice farms at Evolve on Saturday. Tabitha Johnston

According to USA Rice domestic promotions representative Michael Klein, last year’s tour was 5,000 miles over nine states. This year’s is also 5,000 miles, but will cover only the District of Columbia and five states: Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia.

“Most people are excited to know that we grow rice in the U.S. — there’s a strong sense that people want to buy U.S. produce,” Klein said, mentioning this was the first time USA Rice has held a pop-up shop. The tour typically stops at farmers markets and colleges, or for bar trivia nights and charitable events.

“This morning, we donated 156 pounds of rice to local food banks,” Klein said, mentioning rice grown in the U.S. is sustainable and safer to eat than rice grown internationally. “We produce more rice with less land than other countries do, and with no GMOs.”

To learn more, visit usarice.com.