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From Field To Community

Growing a generation of rice leaders


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As the end of the school year approaches, high school juniors are looking for ways to fund their next big journey in life – college. The quest for scholarships is one of the primary concerns for many upperclassmen.

Applications for the USA Rice Federation’s scholarship program, and a chance to win the first place prize of a $4,000 scholarship, are being distributed to high school counselors. The annual scholarships are sponsored by Dow AgroSciences and offered to high school seniors in the major rice-producing states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, California and Missouri.

Taylor Granger from Jennings, La., won the top 2010 USA Rice Federation National Rice Month Scholarship. Growing up in a family with a long lineage of rice farmers, Granger knows firsthand the importance of the crop to the local economy.

“Rice has always been a part of my life,” Granger says.

Granger heard about the scholarship contest from his grandmother, who had read about it in the local newspaper. Instantly Granger thought, “It would be a good opportunity to take what I know about the rice industry and make more of it.”

When deciding how to create a rice awareness project, Granger researched the USA Rice Federation Web site and discovered a poster contest. This idea prompted Granger to create a similar event to get the local community engaged. “A lot of families around here have been involved in rice for a long time,” Granger says.

To let families show their involvement with rice, Granger created a contest where contestants could take pictures of themselves working with and using rice. Participants submitted their photos to be evaluated by a panel of student judges. Granger compiled the top 12 photos and created a calendar to distribute to local organizations and as a prize for the rice photo winner.

 
Additional Details About The NRM 2011 Scholarship
 

“USA Rice Federation is honored to have Dow AgroSciences as the first official sponsor of the National Rice Month (NRM) Scholarship Program,” says Betsy Ward, president and CEO of the USA Rice Federation.

Ward explained that with the support provided by Dow AgroSciences, the USA Rice Federation can continue to recognize the efforts of deserving students. “The scholarship recognizes those who have done an outstanding job promoting rice in their local communities during September, National Rice Month,” she says.

In 2011, the first-place winner will receive $4,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to the USA Rice Outlook Conference in Austin, Texas, in December. The second-place winner will receive $3,000, and the third-place winner will be awarded $1,500.

Eligible students must create a promotional activity in September for rice grown in the United States. As long as the promotion activity is conducted in the month of September, participants are free to be as creative with their projects as they like. Entries will be judged on creativity and impact in promoting rice grown in the United States, National Rice Month and the importance of rice to the student’s state.

Deadline for submission is Oct. 14, 2011. The winners will be notified by Nov. 11. Applicants can get more information at www.usarice.com.

Creative Rice Promotion Projects
Last year, Dow AgroSciences became the first sponsor of the three USA Rice Federation scholarships, for a combined total of $8,500.

“We thank Dow AgroSciences for its demonstrated commitment not only to the scholarship program, but to the entire rice industry,” says Betsy Ward, president and CEO of the USA Rice Federation. “With the support of our sponsor, last year USA Rice presented three students with scholarships totaling $8,500 so that they can go on to college.”

Entrants into the National Rice Month Scholarship are judged on their ability to creatively promote rice in their local communities. The scholarship program creates valuable exposure for the rice industry, as well as the applicants. Through the required activities, high school seniors gain insight into how the rice industry affects not only their local communities but also the U.S. economy.

The 2010 scholarship winners were as follows: Granger, who won first place and a $4,000 scholarship for his “Rice Rocks” entry; Haley Gregory, who won a $3,000 scholarship for her second-place entry “Using Rice to Stretch Your Budget and Promote Healthier Eating Habits;” and Hannah Miller, who earned a $1,500 scholarship for her “Have You Had Your Rice Today?” submission.

In the process of learning more about the rice industry, students are encouraged to reach out to community members to raise awareness and understanding of rice and its economic value and impact. For Granger, community involvement was a very important component of his entry.

The Rice Community
Granger says he learned a lot through researching rice and talking with community members about the significance of the tiny grain. This included an increased awareness of the role rice plays in the local economy. “Rice is bigger than anything else around this area,” Granger says.

As the president of his high school FFA organization, Granger encouraged his fellow FFA members and classmates to get involved. Together they participated in the local 5K Rice Run/Walk, which Jennings, La., has hosted for the past 20 years to promote rice and healthy living.

Granger also reached out to young children and other local organizations to spread the word about the health benefits of rice. Granger created cookbooks, appeared on local television stations and spoke to elementary students to spread his passion for and knowledge of the rice industry.

Part of Granger’s mission was to make students his age aware that “rice is more than just grass” and that it affects everyone in the community. Granger demonstrated that not only does rice affect the farmers’ income, but it also affects the job market for local youth. Many kids work for rice farmers, driving tractors or working in the fields.

“The rice industry gives kids the opportunity to learn how to work,” Granger says. “You learn that you can achieve something with your own two hands.”

The Long-Term Outreach
The National Rice Month Scholarship contest has provided Granger with numerous opportunities. He plans to attend Louisiana State University in the fall of 2011 and major in agricultural business. From there, Granger plans to apply to law school. No matter where his future takes him, this aspiring leader plans to keep his hands in the rice industry.

“Rice will always be a part of who I am; it’s kind of like home,” Granger says.

Second-place winner Haley Gregory from Brinkley, Ark., says she gained incredible confidence in her public speaking abilities through the scholarship program.

Gregory learned through firsthand conversations how dramatically the rice industry affects every aspect of the Arkansas Delta life. “Promoting rice has made me more aware of exactly how much agriculture and, more specifically rice farming, impacts our lives in the Delta,” Gregory says.

Part of Gregory’s promotion included coming up with a rice recipe to demonstrate the versatility of the grain in healthy meals. Gregory appeared on stage at the “Girls Night Out” program in Little Rock to demonstrate how to cook her new “Pretty in Pink Parfait” recipe.
She also provided educational handouts to local organizations to stress the personal and financial benefits of using rice.

Gregory enjoyed getting to know a variety of people involved in the rice industry and promoting the crop to her local community. “I have enjoyed meeting and educating others about how important rice is to our economy and our personal nutrition," says Gregory, who plans to attend the University of Arkansas in the fall to obtain a degree in crop science.

The third-place winner, Hannah Miller from Crowley, La., focused on showing her community how much rice impacts their daily lives. Miller wrote articles for the local newspaper and spoke on local radio stations to promote her rice awareness campaign.

Having a rice-farming background and growing up in one of the largest rice-producing states gave Miller a solid understanding of the rice industry. “Rice has had a big impact on my life. It has affected my family in so many ways,” Miller says.

For years, Miller has participated in the Rice and Creole Cookery Contest, qualifying many times for the Chef de Riz competition. Miller created educational presentations showcasing Louisiana as the second-largest rice-producing state, with approximately 560,000 acres of rice planted in 2010.

“I now have an even greater appreciation for rice,” Miller says.

Bader Rutter, who represents Dow AgroSciences, provided information for this article.

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