Southern Brown Rice, located in Weiner, Arkansas, was among the first farms in the South to become organic. The families of Ron and Willadean Hogue began growing rice in the Weiner area in 1907, following the standard practices of the time. But, in 1978, Willadean took a long, hard look around the area in which they lived, where her children grew and played, and where someday her grandchildren would do the same. She was concerned about the high number of cancer cases in the area and became convinced that they were due to all the pesticides and chemicals used on the crops. With this realization, she decided to convert the farm to organic production.
The Hogues began the transition to organics in 1980, doing just one field at a time. Transitioning was not easy. “No one in the area knew about organic rice production,” Willadean recalls. “We had to get both production and certification information from manuals produced by CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers).” In 1983 they were certified organic by OCIA as member number 22.
The lack of knowledge about organics in the early 1980s meant that the Hogues needed to develop markets for their products. They did this by traveling from city to city, from New Orleans to Dallas and Austin, from Chicago to St. Louis, and from New York to Boston. In each town, they would sit in their hotel room and call every health food store and co-op in the phone book. Then, they would go from shop to shop promoting their organic rice. In the early years, the Hogue’s home served as their storeroom, office, and mailroom. By 1984, they signed agreements with a few distributors. Currently, Southern Brown Rice is shipped all over the U.S., to Canada, and even to Europe.
On the Southern Brown Rice farms, rice and soybeans are grown in rotation, with the soybeans sold for tofu production. Until recently, poultry litter was used to provide nutrients and build soil organic matter. However, when the Hogues extended their organic certification from NOP compliance to compliance with E.E.C. (European Economic Community) standards, they needed to discontinue use of the litter. (Even though the poultry producers who provided the Hogues with litter do not feed their birds hormones or other additives, their operations did not comply with some animal management practices required by E.E.C. organic standards.) As an alternative, they have begun using wheat as a winter cover crop, and soybeans tilled in at the blossom stage as a green manure.
Good land management has caused changes in the farm over the years. “The soil is different than it used to be.” Willadean says, “It is less compacted, there are more earthworms, and the white cranes are more abundant.”
Weeds and nitrogen management are the major production problems encountered on this farm. While cultivation is used to control weeds in the soybeans, weed management in flooded rice fields requires hand labor. Willadean remarks that the lack of chemical weed control means that their fields are “not pretty” and that their yields are usually lower than those of conventional rice growers. She admitted that when they first changed to organic production, their yields dropped to almost half of those obtained by conventional rice producers. After many years of building their soil and learning how to effectively manage their fields organically, Southern Brown Rice now produces yields closer to 70% of conventional producers. But they have minimal problems with pests, and their soils hold water better than conventional soils. “Many people have also told me that our rice just tastes better than conventionally grown rice,” Willadean notes. Finally, to naysayers of organics, Willadean says, “Organic production is not easy, but it can be done.”
Southern Brown Rice
P.O. Box 185
Weiner, AR 72479
In 1988, a group of Arkansas farmers, including Tom and Brandy Kimmons, formed Shirley Community Development Corporation (CDC) as a non-profit 501(c)(3) community development program to provide livings for themselves, teach people about long-term sustainable agriculture, including organic farming, and educate the public about healthy food choices.
The Shiitake Mushroom Center, the marketing arm of the CDC, produces approximately 4,000 pounds of fresh, organically certified shitake mushrooms on native white oak logs inoculated with certified organic spawn. After inoculation, the logs are tagged and stored until time for harvest. At harvest, the logs are submerged in water to shock the mushrooms into growing. One day later the mushrooms begin sprouting and will continue to fruit every 12 weeks for 2 years.
Shiitake mushrooms and mushroom specialty products are but a small part of production for Shirley CDC. Tom designed raised vegetable beds and herbal gardens that get their nutrients from compost made from mushroom and log wastes. Raised vegetable and herbal gardens needed decorative bricks, stepping stones, and birdbaths for garden design, so Tom developed a process to make the decorative items and now markets them from the gift shop located at the Center.
When China flooded the market with cheaper shiitake mushrooms, the Center partnered with the National Cancer Institute to research the health benefits of eating shiitake mushrooms, and now most of their product is being sold to the Institute.
The CDC has expanded its educational and economic development activities to include computer and business classes, youth job training, and production training seminars. During the past 10 years, the Center has trained 200 small and independent farmers in sustainable agriculture and shiitake mushroom production and welcomes more than 3,000 visitors each year.
For more information or to arrange a tour of the Center,
Tom Kimmons, Program Director
Shirley Community Development Corporation
The Shiitake Mushroom Center
366 Brown Road
Shirley Arkansas 72153
Heifer International’s strategy for defeating world hunger is “to pass on the gift.” To accomplish that, they maintain three U.S. education centers and several international centers that focus on world hunger solutions, organic gardening, and sustainable agricultural practices.
Heifer Ranch, located in Perryville, Arkansas, just 45 minutes from Heifer International’s Little Rock headquarters, is one of the three U.S. centers. Known informally as “The Ranch,” the 1200-acre educational center sponsors on-going, hands-on, educational programs on sustainable agriculture, sloping land agriculture, and organic production techniques.
One project at The Ranch is a 10-acre certified organic vegetable farm. Chuck Crimmins, The Ranch’s master gardener, supervises a volunteer student manager and a myriad of volunteers and interns who can spend up to one year at The Ranch learning farming and sustainable agriculture techniques. Interns receive a small stipend and a house to live in. Heifer Ranch provides the intern with all the necessary tools to run a certified organic vegetable operation, including a refrigerated truck, a tractor, hoop-house, and other equipment. At the end of the season, if there is income from vegetable production shares and expenses are managed correctly, the intern may share in the profits from the vegetable project.
The 10-acre vegetable farm grows produce for The Ranch kitchen and the approximately 75 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, who can choose either to pick up their vegetables at The Ranch, or have them delivered to a central location in Little Rock. For more information on the CSA program, contact Chuck Crimmins.
The Ranch hosts more than 25,000 visitors and 250 volunteers annually, and is the home of Heifer’s original Global Village, where teenagers and adults can spend a few nights living with the realities of poverty and hunger. After spending time at the Global Village, they leave with an understanding of the root causes of poverty, an understanding that will affect their choices for a lifetime.
The Ranch also includes a Conference Center with modern lodging facilities, low and high Challenge Courses, organic gardens, livestock representing Heifer’s gifts to projects, and a Heifer International Gift Shop.
For more information about Heifer International or about The Ranch,
55 Heifer Road
Perryville, AR 72126
P.O. Box 8058
Little Rock, AR 72203