Down on the FarmA Delta family applies a niche-market concept to a dinner table staple.
BY BILL DEJOURNETT
When David Arant Jr. was a kid, he thought rice was just, well, rice.
His family, who has owned farmland near Cleveland, Mississippi, for more than 90 years, had a small mill and would give away rice to friends and family.
“People would always comment about how good it was,” Arant says. “I didn’t know if it was better than anything else in the store or not.”
When he moved to Jackson as an adult, he and his wife would buy rice at the store when they ran out of their family’s farm supply.
“It wasn’t as good,” he says. “So my wife and I were thinking, ‘Maybe there’s something we can do here.’”
That, plus Arant’s agricultural background, laid the foundation for the Delta Blues Rice Company, a journey that initially started with a departure from life on the farm. After Arant graduated from Mississippi State in 2006, he decided to pursue a career in civil engineering.
“I really enjoyed my time doing that work,” Arant says. “Getting away from the farm was a blessing. I would have left Mississippi State and come back to the farm otherwise, and I would have always wondered what else is out there?”
In 2012, Arant returned to his Delta farmland roots, which is when he first discussed with his father and uncle making the family’s small rice mill into a real business.
“We didn’t have any idea what was involved in building up a business or a rice field,” Arant says. “So we started the process in 2013, and it’s been a steady-growing journey.”
“I’ve had people tell me that ‘This reminds me of what my grandmother used to cook.’ That’s a compliment to me.”
Delta Blues Rice is artisan-milled and packaged on site in small batches. “I’m the one who’s filling it and packaging it,” Arant says. “I really do believe we have a better product. That’s the reason why we’re going for that niche gourmet market.”
Arant says his greatest joy comes from the relationships he’s formed in selling the product. “One thing I really do enjoy is the people I’ve met in this business,” Arant says. “They are just amazing … Being able to grow their food is an honor.”
Delta Blues Rice is now sold in retail locations in 21 states, and can be purchased in Oxford at the Neon Pig and Larsen’s Cash Saver. They plan to expand to Kroger in the near future.
BILL DEJOURNETT is a freelance writer and musician based in Oxford. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.