By Kristi Strain
I recently read an article from Sustainable Connections, and the question was asked, “Why Buy Local?” The article stated that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned business, more of your money is used to buy from other local farms and business.
I worked for Petit Jean Meats when I was in College several years ago, and I began working for them again last year, and for me, it is a perfect fit. Petit Jean Meats not only represents delicious ham, bacon and lunch meat but we provide jobs locally, and we are excellent partners in our community. What is amazing is that Petit Jean has been doing all these things for 90 years! My time spent between college and now was in a restaurant, a conference center, and a catering business. I have had the pleasure of feeding thousands of people. My Mom taught me from a very young age that quality is always the key. I have catered all over Arkansas and a few times in surrounding states and people know Petit Jean Meats.
So now, as I work in sales and marketing for Petit Jean Meats, I am proud to walk into a prospective client knowing that we are the best in the business, and we are local. Just as the article stated, locally owned businesses want to work with a locally owned business. Recently, I had the pleasure of filming a few of my favorite rice recipes with Ralston Family Farms. While we were shooting, we were laughing about having neighbors in the country. In the country, your neighbors might be ten to fifteen miles away or more. Ralston Family Farms and Petit Jean Meats are country neighbors!
Like Petit Jean Meats, the Ralston Family also works very hard to provide a quality product. When we first toured their facility, the cleanliness amazed me. Meaning when you think of milling something you think there would be a lot of “dust” but that was not true here. They have state of the art equipment, and it is very interesting how the whole process works. What also amazed me is they grow all the varieties of rice here locally, and they can tell you what field your rice came from and when it was harvested. Some people may not be interested in this; however, the people that do want to know are quickly gaining in numbers.
Growing up you always heard “you are what you eat.” Petit Jean Meats provides tasty lean proteins, and Ralston Family Farms provides yummy whole grains that are sustainable. So, for me buying local means, I am supporting my neighbors, I am strengthening my community, and I am aware of what I am consuming.
Taking care of our health is a full-time job and one that only we can do for ourselves. It is our responsibility to make sure our bodies have the fuel they need to thrive. The good news is that healthy doesn't have to be hard, simple switches can have a positive, long-term effect on how we feel and function.
One of the easiest and most beneficial ways to change a diet for the better is to include a variety of nutrient packed whole grains. Whole grains are grains that have not been refined, but contain all their original parts: the bran, endosperm, and germ. In this unrefined state, foods such as brown rice are rich in minerals, proteins, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Here are five benefits to choosing Brown Rice:
1. More Fiber
Whole grains are rich in nutrients and have high levels of bran, giving them high amounts of fiber that aid in digestive health.
2. Good for the Cardiovascular System
Brown rice is rich in selenium which is beneficial for a healthy heart. Consumption of whole grains such as brown rice helps to reduce the blockage of arteries due to plaque buildup. This protective action reduces the risk of cardiac disorders such as hypertension and vascular diseases. Studies conducted in this regard suggested that the tissue surrounding the grain of brown rice contains a component which acts against the endocrine protein angiotensin II, which plays a major role in the development of high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
3. Supports a Healthy Weigh
The relationship between changes in intake of dietary fiber and whole grain and changes in weight among middle-aged women was documented in a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003). Researchers found women who consumed more whole grains consistently weighed less than did women who consumed less whole grains. Women who had the highest intake of dietary fiber had a 49 percent lower risk of weight gain. Unlike the advice to limit carbohydrates by some popular diets, this data indicates the importance of whole grain products to aid weight control.
4. Helps Manage Diabetes
Brown rice is beneficial for diabetics and hyperglycemic individuals. It has a low glycemic index which is helpful in reducing insulin surges and assists in the stabilization of blood sugar levels in the body.
5. Rich in Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants
Some of the phytochemicals and minerals found in whole grains may be associated with a lower risk of certain cancers, HSPH says. As a part of an overall healthy diet, whole grains may help improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, according to the AHA.
The following nutrients are found in whole grains, according to the AHA:
The United States Dietary Guidelines suggest eating three to five servings of whole grains per day to maintain a healthy weight
Ralston Family Farms grows five different sustainably grown varieties of whole grain rice, including Traditional, Jasmine, Basmati, Nature's Blend and Golden.
♥Nature's Blend is as special as it gets. A long, whole grain aromatic rice that has been cross-pollinated in the field and harvested as a blend straight out of the ground. Its unique combination of Aromatic Purple, Red and Brown Rice has a nutty texture and is full of nutrition and antioxidants. This variety becomes a beautiful, deep purple when cooked.
♥Golden Rice is a long grain, lightly milled, whole grain rice that is unique among varieties. Named for its beautiful golden color, this rice has a nutty texture and shorter cooking time than traditional brown rice, making it the perfect combination of healthy and convenient.
♥Basmati Brown is a long, slender-grained aromatic rice. This whole grain rice has a distinctively spicy fragrance and flavor and is sometimes referred to as "popcorn rice" because of its fluffy texture.
♥Jasmine Brown is a long-grain, fragrant rice. This highly sought-after variety has a light and fluffy texture, nutty flavor, and enticing floral scent with all the nutritious benefits of a whole grain. It will quickly become one of your favorites.
♥Traditional Brown is a nutritious, southern long-grain rice. Light and flaky with a superior milling quality, this variety is a classic.
If they all sound too good to choose, try our Whole Grain Variety 6 Pack and try them all!
Ralston Family Farms is proud to participate in the Arkansas Farm to School program.
Farm to School is an enrichment program that does just what the name suggests by connecting school kitchens with local farmers, creating a winning situation for all involved.
Over 95,000 students are reached by Farm to School in the state of Arkansas.* These students have access to fresh produce, food nutrition and hands-on learning experiences coordinated through the cooperation of educators and farmers.
It is encouraging to see students given an opportunity to learn first-hand where their food comes from and help them foster an awareness of the relationship between their plate and our fields.
What affects the land affects society and teaching students about agriculture offers them the opportunity to wrestle with important and challenging issues facing our planet.
When teachers incorporate a farm to school curriculum in their classrooms, they are offering opportunities to learn efficiency in process, diverse and complex ecosystems, cooperation between individuals and groups, and cross-curriculum skills such as math, language, and science. A good example of this would be a community garden where students are responsible for figuring the amount of plants needed to feed their school population, comparing fertilization methods based on a sustainability matrix, maintaining and harvesting the produce, and compiling menus to make sure none of their hard work goes to waste. These are real-life scenarios played out in classrooms and cafeterias across our state and nation.
We support programs that aid in a positive future for children, farmers, and the food we all love to love.
In the world of food there is a lot of back and forth between which types of diets are sustainable for the planet's future.
Factors such as nutrition, population growth, and changing climates must be taken into consideration, knowing that our diets not only affect these elements but are also effected by them.
Malnutrition and food scarcity are very real threats and both food producers and consumers have a responsibility to be knowledgeable and proactive about their individual roles in a much larger world system.
As a food producer, we at Ralston Family Farms, make the commitment to:
1. Use our resources wisely
2. Invest in technology
3. Make long-term decisions
But what can consumers do to make a difference in a seemingly too big problem?
The answer lies in the old adage... How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Strategic choices within a sphere of influence seem to be the answer to most of the world's dilemmas.
Environmentalists and nutritionists recommend the switch from an ultra-processed, fast-food mentality to one that prioritizes plant-based and sustainable ingredients, defining these diets as "those with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. 'These diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable, nutritionally adequate, and safe and healthy, while optimizing natural and human resources (FAO and Bioversity 2012)."
Scrolling through Instagram and other social media will prove that these are the exact food choices now considered "on trend." They are not only good for the world food system, but are good for the individual.
Three actions you can take to make a difference today:
1. Think local:
This has become easier and easier thanks to additions of local sections in grocery stores and online venues such as locallygrown.net.
2. Purchase only what you will use:
Food waste happens to us all. In order to stop the cycle we must be responsible in the amounts we buy and the use of those resources. What your parents said is true, there really is a child starving somewhere.
3. Include more plant based items in your menu:
You may not want to go all-out vegan, but research does suggest plant based proteins are not only agriculturally sustainable, but are healthier alternatives to meat based diets.
In this day and age the individual has more power to impact than ever before and it is up to us to decide what is important, press in, and do something about it.
Okay fellow consumer, we've got this!
Sustainable Diets for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet. United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition, 2017, Sustainable Diets for Healthy People and a Healthy Planet, www.unscn.org/uploads/web/news/document/Climate-Nutrition-Paper-EN-WEB.pdf.
FAO and Bioversity (2012b). Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity. Burlingame B, Dernini S, Rosen R, Meade B, Shapouri S, D’Souza A, Rada N (2012). USDA International Food Security Assessment 2012-22. US Department of Agriculture: Washington DC. http://www. ers.usda.gov/publications/gfa-food-security-assessmentsituation-and-outlook/gfa23.aspx.
We were proud to participate in Governor Hutchinson's Design Thinking Workshop on June 27, 2018 to discuss blockchain technology and food distribution.
Blockchain, developed by IBM, helps buyers and producers trace every aspect in the life of their food.
One of the most important aspects of Ralston Family Farms is transparency and traceability. It is important for consumers to know where their food comes from and how it is produced. We believe investing in technologies, such as blockchain distribution, is an investment in food quality and safety.
Governor Hutchinson mentioned Ralston Family Farms and our traceability practices in his weekly Radio Address, which can be found at: https://governor.arkansas.gov/news-media/weekly-address/blockchain-technology-could-revolutionize-arkansas-agriculture.
Or see copy below:
Blockchain Technology Could Revolutionize Arkansas AgricultureA roomful of business leaders gathered at Mosaic Templars in Little Rock this week to explore the possibilities of a new technology that is changing the way the world does business.
The technology is called blockchain. It is a system that can record and track data in an immutable ledger for government and business – from the mining and sale of diamonds to property records to medical records and almost any other product or service you can name.
In Arkansas, we are studying the potential for blockchain in agriculture. The technology can track a crop from the moment it’s planted to the moment someone eats it – from farm to table.
The recent case of E. coli that killed five people and made dozens of people sick eventually was traced to romaine lettuce that was grown in Yuma, Arizona. The search took days, a delay in which even more people ate contaminated lettuce. But even after investigators discovered the source, they couldn’t identify the farm that shipped the contaminated lettuce.
If the data had been stored in a blockchain, the Centers for Disease Control could have discovered the source in a matter of seconds. That would have reduced the number of people sickened and possibly saved lives.
This is a significant technology for Arkansas, where agriculture is our Number 1 industry. We ship food all over the world, and blockchain technology would allow consumers to develop a higher degree of trust in the crops we export.
Tim and Robin Ralston, who were among those who attended the workshop on Wednesday, see blockchain as a obvious step in the future of agriculture. Their family, which came from Scotland, has worked the land for ten generations.
The Ralstons already track their rice from the field to your fork. At Ralston Family Farm in Atkins, they grow, harvest, mill and package their rice, documenting it at every stop on paper and with computers. Their attention to these details makes blockchain technology a logical progression.
The benefits of blockchain to Arkansas farmers and to agriculture generally are immense. Anytime you can move record keeping from paper and pencil and ledger to digital, you have improved efficiency.
If Arkansas is going to lead the way with blockchain in the food-security industry, we must upgrade our rural broadband service, which is essential for our farmers and rural communities.
Blockchain is another key to growing the technology part of our economy and providing great jobs for Arkansans. I am grateful to IBM for participating in the summit on Wednesday, and I am eager to see how blockchain will add to our future.
We recently had the pleasure of meeting "Tater Man" (an alias he uses so he can work in the food industry and still give his unbiased reviews on restaurants and others in the same line of work) at a local Farm to School event. After discussing our mutual love of rice we invited him to the mill for a tour and were thrilled to learn he was inspired enough to blog about what he saw.
This is a repost of his blog.
We are honored.
The Ralston Family Farms
April 20, 2018
Friends, I come out of a blogging hibernation to bring you a post that I have been excited to write about for some time. I was first introduced to this family during a farm to school conference in Conway, AR. The sisters Jennifer and Ashley were there to represent their family farm and surround themselves with like minded folks looking to bridge the gap from farm to school. I was made aware that Arkansas ranks in the bottom 5 of the United States that is the least participative in the federal Farm to School initiative. After spending some wonderful time speaking to them that day I was astounded to learn that they were living and farming in Atkins, AR (my back yard), this was music to my rice loving ears. I had to know and see so much more.
Several weeks later we ended up being brought together at a round-table discussion looking to focus on ways to improve our Russellville and surrounding communities with more localized sustainable support. I left this meeting grinning ear to ear, just to spend that time with these leaders of our community discussing the very bright future for the Russellville School District, The greater Russellville and surrounding community farmers market as well as our Food 4 Kids efforts, was the best thing to happen this year. We have spent so much time as a nation traveling down the wrong road as designed by our ever growing food and grocery industry that somehow we have gotten ourselves to a point where farmers allover the country are struggling to support their very own homes and families. The agricultural industry cannot continue this way, we must see that the problem is not passed the point of no return but in fact very reversible.
To see a family who has realized that sustainability looks very different these days than it used to, is such a relief. They are a family dedicated to serving those around them and sowing the land around them. You can find this family’s story on their website www.ralstonfamilyfarms.com and view their wonderful rice. From what I understand they will have a few of their rice varieties in stores very soon and varieties available with your Blue Apron orders. I applaud you (Ralston family) and will continue to support you in every way possible for the sustainable future. Keep it up!
It is planting season again. The days are longer, the grass greener, and we are busy sowing seeds of anticipation for this year's harvest.
On the farm, as in life, there is a way to do everything and since our way is sustainably, we value making long-term choices.
When it comes to planting, no-till is our long-term solution for a better crop.
No-till farming, also called zero-tillage, is a way to plant crops without soil disruption through tilling.This method allows us to use the breakdown of organic materials in the field and the natural harvest process from the year before to reduce our use of resources, energy costs, and time.
Find out more by watching the video below.
Using Golden Rice creates one of those happy occasions when everybody at the table wins- the picky eater and the health-conscious mom.
Rice is mostly broken down into two distinct categories: white, which is loved by all, and brown, its often less-loved, healthy counterpart.
Not everybody is a fan of brown rice. The nutrition from brown comes from the bran and because of this it can be heavy for some and has a longer cooking time than white. But it is hard to easily dismiss the health benefits of choosing brown.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture*:
"Whole-grain brown rice contains 15 vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and iron—all nutrients the body needs to grow and develop normally. In addition to these essential nutrients, there are bioactive phytochemicals in rice, as well as in other whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds..."
Our Golden Rice retains most of these nutrients, meaning it is the best of both worlds. A rice that cooks and tastes like white but with the health benefits of a whole grain.
This is your go-to variety for that #dinnerwin.
Visit our store to learn more about Golden Rice.
*"USDA ARS Online Magazine Vol. 61, No. 4." AgResearch Mag. Accessed March 08, 2018. https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2013/apr/rice/.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around." We at Ralston Family Farms find a certain peace knowing we put our beliefs into practice.
We call this way of life sustainable.
This isn't just a buzz word to peak interest. It is a day-in and day-out way of doing things. It is how we make our decisions and who we say we are.
Here are three truths about sustainability at Ralston Family Farms:
1. Resource-First Mindset
Being accountable is the lifeblood of sustainability. By going out of our way to use resources in a manner that is renewable and responsible we maintain a sense of authenticity. It takes some ingenuity and a lot of hard work, but we don't mind. Using practices such as Zero-grade leveling and surface water irrigation utilizes the farm's natural assets.
2. Legacy Centered
We make a point to not only do no harm but to also improve the quality of the land we farm for future generations. We want to pass down both our farm and our values to our children and grandchildren and to do that we must be forward thinking in our actions. This is why we invest in the newest and most efficient technologies and methods.
3. Quality Counts
Quality has its own relation to sustainability. Making thoughtful choices about the way we farm and mill ensures premium results and when the results are food that is pretty important. We take feeding your family as seriously as we take feeding our own and we wouldn't expect you to eat anything less than the best. We inspect every part of the milling process from the time it first comes out of the bins to the final package.
To learn more about our sustainable practices visit our About Us page at ralstonfamilyfarms.com.
It's a great day on the farm! The Ralston family is pleased to introduce you to our new range of artisanal rice varieties and invite you to learn a little more about our core values and who we are.
Visit our store to order your favorite variety from Ralston Family Farms.
Questions? Comments? We would love to hear from you.