CROWLEY, LA — Every year during the third week of October, the town of Crowley, Louisiana, stops everything they’re doing to celebrate all things R-I-C-E at the International Rice Festival. The festival starts today and runs through the weekend but a group of local elementary students got a jump on the festivities with a rice production tutorial that made a special visit to their school.
The second-grade class at St. Michael’s Catholic School has devoted this week to studying the grain that has been the backbone of this area’s economy for more than a hundred years, learning about research being done at the Louisiana State University (LSU) Rice Research Station, meeting farmers who grow the crop, the importance of local rice mills, and the need for support of affiliated industries such as equipment dealers. These second graders are studying it all.
Monday kicked off with a presentation by Dr. Adam Famoso of the LSU Rice Research Station about rice breeding and how and why this work is so important. Dr. Famoso brought real rice plants so the students could see them firsthand and learn about different rice varieties and their different characteristics.
Local producers Robbie Broussard and Christian Richard helped students plant their own rice seeds while learning step-by-step the processes that go into an annual crop.
Sunshine Quality Solutions, a farm equipment supplier in southern Louisiana, parked a combine and grain cart in front of the school and students lined up to climb aboard. As you might guess, it was a big hit! For many, it was their first time sitting inside a tractor cab.
“This week allows those of us in the local rice industry to tell our story to these students, our future consumers,” said Julie Richard, who farms with her husband Christian near Kaplan. “We also connect with the future of our industry. Who knows, there may be a future rice breeder, an engineer who designs tractors for John Deere, or the next group of producers right here at this school. This is another crop for us as we, representing the U.S. rice industry, have planted seeds in the minds of seven-year-olds. Let’s hope they grow!”