From the Mississippi Delta rises a new sensation: Delta Blues Rice. No longer merely a local phenomenon, the company’s popularity has been gaining speed among the populace of Mississippi and across the country, spreading from California to New York and from Florida to Michigan—19 states in all.
It all began when Kathryn, daughter of Newton W. Carver, and her husband Hugh Arant Sr. inherited the land her father purchased in 1924. In 1949 they were growing mostly cotton, but a few years later they were growing everything from soybeans to wheat to rice; they even raised catfish. Their children, David Sr. and Hugh Jr., added corn to the crop rotation.
The Arant family freely shared their bounty with their neighbors for years, until a few years ago when David Jr. thought of a better idea. Using the analytical skills developed as a seasoned civil engineer, David Jr. developed a way to reap more benefit from their farm. With his urging, Delta Blues was born, planting its first crop in spring 2013 and harvesting it that fall, transforming their little home operation into a profitable company.
“All of us bring different things to the table,” says David Jr. He shares that the brains of the operation are his father David Sr. and his uncle, Hugh Jr. All three gentlemen work the fields, raising the crops and putting in the time to produce a superior product. “My wonderful wife Rebekkah is always editing and writing emails, working on the website, and updating stores,” says David Jr. Though the heart of the operation, he admits, is probably him. “I’m the one at the mill everyday, packaging rice for customers.”
This family-centered company developed its business with one mission: “We wanted to show people that rice grows in Mississippi and educate people about Mississippi Delta farming—how the growing process from seed to harvest allows you to get more product,” he says. He expressed his belief that people today have no clue where their food comes from. The Arant family desires to open the public’s eyes, teaching about the work going into producing the food we eat.
But why rice? “Rice is one of the few products that can go straight to the table with minimal processing,” explains David. His family cooks it plain in a pan, seasoned with nothing more than butter and salt. That’s all that is needed to bring out the natural, rich flavor of the rice from the Mississippi Delta. “Our rice,” he elaborates, “actually has more flavor than just butter and salt…People have described the flavor to me as ‘nutty’ and ‘rich.’”
Delta Blues Rice’s consistency sets it apart. Most rice-growing companies are forced to harvest from several different fields in a variety of locations, blending textures and tastes, creating a less-than-consistent product. Delta Blues made an effort to choose a rice strain with the flavor it liked best, and then exclusively grew that strain. You will not find different flavors and textures present in your bite of Delta Blues Rice.
Delta Blues produces three rice options: long-grain white rice, brown rice, and rice grits. In addition to the standard one- and two-pound bags ($5 and $6 respectively), Delta Blues sells a sampler-set option perfect for gift-giving and 25-pound bags for restaurants. The rice grits, of course, are a crowd-pleaser in the South. David Jr. makes a point of sending a Creamy Parmesan Cheese Grits recipe card with most online orders. But it doesn’t stop there. On the Delta Blues website there are gourmet rice recipes, some of which were contributed by known chefs, like the Delta Blues Rice Pudding created by chef Cole Ellis at Delta Meat Market in Cleveland or the Delta Blues Rice Salad by Alice d’Antoni Phillips from Ally’s Kitchen.
Already, Delta Blues Rice is growing a following. The support has been overwhelming. “The way people have accepted our product online, in stores, and even reaching out through Instagram,” says David, “reminds me how good people can be.”
It’s not all buttered rice and salt, though, Starting a new business requires Herculean efforts and a steadfast resolve. “There were long nights and tough times, but it’s been a lot of fun…thanks to the good Lord, we’ve been blessed in this business.”
Passion is the key component. “It’s the only thing that gets you through creating a business, especially in its early years,” says David. The Arant family has passion in spades. They love hearing from customers, sharing rice recipes they’ve discovered, and just growing the rice they love.
Needless to say, whoever said rice is boring never tasted Delta Blues.
For more information:
3731 Hwy. 8 E., Ruleville
662.618.2060 or deltabluesrice.com