Rice is one of the most popular menu items at restaurants and kitchen tables throughout Florida. Yet, Florida consumers may be surprised to know the rice at their local supermarket is likely to have been locally grown by their neighbors in western Palm Beach County.
South Florida is the only region of the state that grows this beneficial crop, which is planted by farmers in Palm Beach County between late February and early March, with the harvest season beginning in the summer.
Led by Florida Crystals Corporation, which owns the only rice mill in Florida, Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) farmers produced a record 120 million pounds of rice this year, a 33 percent increase compared to 2016. That equates to nearly 30,000 acres of farmland dedicated to rice this season alone, with 22,700 acres grown by Florida Crystals, makers of locally grown Florida Crystals organic and raw cane sugar. That’s enough South Florida-grown rice to feed more than four million people for a year.
Rice is an important rotational crop with sugarcane, sweet corn and other vegetables, as it conserves and revitalizes the soil. It also boosts the local economy all year round as it contributes to economic activity and local jobs.
“For me, it’s a privilege to grow the rice that is feeding our neighbors,” says Luigi Trotta, Florida Crystals director of rice and organic farming. “We know that it is important for people to know where their food is coming from and how it’s grown. That’s why we take great pride in our quality food products and the sustainable agricultural practices we use to grow them.”
Florida Crystals is the largest grower of rice in Florida and just recently launched a new consumer brand called Florida’s Table Rice, the only organic and conventional rice grown and harvested in the Sunshine State, which is available at local retailers, including Publix and Whole Foods Market. The new brand continues the company’s commitment to locally grown rice.
In fact, in the past five years, Florida Crystals has invested $8 million in its Belle Glade rice mill to expand storage and production as well as increase the production of specialty rice products, like rice flour.