• By Leslie Dixon •
Every year, thanks to the generous support of the American Commodity Co., USA Rice awards $15,000 to young people from the six rice-growing states who use video to tell a unique story about rice.
This year’s grand prize scholarship winner, Josefine Sedler, used rice as art to create her award-winning video, “California Rice & Wildlife.” It explores some of the many creatures sustained by the habitat rice fields provide in her home state.
Sedler employed stop-motion animation to construct intricately textured portraits of animals using only grains of rice in a wide variety of colors, lengths and shapes. A rainbow of earthy tones transform into the dappled wings of a bird before the viewer’s eyes.
“I’ve always loved arts and crafts,” said Sedler, a high school senior from Oxnard, California. “I love to draw, so it wasn’t entirely new. I’ve never used rice before, but when I was looking for a topic for my video, I knew I wanted to use art, and since it’s all about rice it just made sense to make the pictures out of rice.”
The mosaic style of art she used was also new territory for her.
As Josefine weaves a voice-over narrative about the mutually beneficial relationship between rice farms and wildlife, portraits of a snowy plover, a black-necked stilt, a snowy egret, a long-billed curlew and a deer mouse materialize onscreen. Each of the mosaics took between 45 minutes to an hour to make and film, except for the final long-billed curlew, which was more labor intensive. Sedler used a GoPro and a camera stand — made from PVC pipe bent with a heat gun — she designed and constructed herself.
A deeper respect for rice
Participating in the contest has made Sedler consider and appreciate the impact of the rice she grew up eating daily at home, including in her favorite dish: her mother’s rice with mole. It has also given her a deeper perspective on the importance of rice farms in an environmental sense.
“I loved the idea that we can have something that’s beneficial for us and for our wildlife at the same time,” said Sedler on Episode 35 of The Rice Stuff podcast. “So instead of having a scenario where it’s either us or them, instead we have us AND them. We’re kind of helping each other out in a way, so we both get what we need. That’s something I really appreciate about what our rice farmers are doing.”
California student and vegan athlete Asjia Roberson took second place for an inspiring video on how U.S. rice is an integral part of her training routine. Her title says it all: “Winning With Rice!” Third place went to Mallory Gilbertson from Mississippi for her video, “Life Is Like A Bag Of Rice,” a parody of the movie “Forrest Gump.”
The top three videos were screened at the 2021 USA Rice Outlook Conference last week in New Orleans. These, and four Honorable Mention videos from students in Arkansas, California, and Missouri, can be watched on the USA Rice YouTube page.
This article first appeared in USA Rice’s “The Daily.”