The real meaning of quality

Carroll Smith Senior Writer Phone: (800) 888-9784 csmith@onegrower.com

Carroll Smith
Senior Writer
Phone: (800) 888-9784
csmith@onegrower.com

Charles Eames, an American designer who was born a few years into the 20th century and worked in the industrial and graphic design fields, once said, “Eventually, everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”

The word “quality” is no stranger to the U.S. rice industry either. For the past few years, it has been discussed extensively in all sorts of settings – rice breeders’ plots, coffee shops, industry meetings, conversations with rice buyers, the list goes on. In most instances, the subject matter revolves around rice quality – the inherent characteristics of the grain that make it appealing to customers and consumers alike.

In this month’s Rice Quality Matters column on page 5, George Graham, Vice President, Research & Development, Mars Food North America, says, “We have to uphold our Five Principles, quality in particular, to make sure that we are providing the highest quality products to our consumers. We insist on having identity-preserved lots as opposed to comingled lots. The majority of our rice is long-grain, and it all comes from the United States. For some of our products, we contract with specific farmers.”

Graham points out the connection between obtaining quality, identity-preserved rice and contracting with specific farmers to make sure he can deliver the type of products that consumers have come to expect from his company.

Betsy Ward, President and CEO, USA Rice Federation, offers a visual snapshot on page 6 of the connection between U.S. rice and the desire of the Cuban people to purchase what they appear to consider a first-class product: “Yes, the Cuban people love U.S.-grown rice,” Ward says. “When I visited in 2007, shopkeepers told me of hours-long lines that would form when news spread that our rice had arrived.”

Another virtual line connects the dots.

In a conversation I had with Mark Pousson, manager of the South Louisiana Rail Facility, while writing the cover article on page 8, he reminisced about a presentation he made several years ago to a group of rice farmers in south Louisiana while trying to raise money to get the rail project kicked off.

“I particularly remember the meeting in Welch,” he says. “It was sleeting outside; there were 110 people in attendance; and there was nothing to eat or drink. They had to listen to Mark Pousson and Bill Wild ask them each for $5,000 to ‘maybe’ build something. And a lot of them stepped up to the plate. It’s unbelievable. A wonderful story.”

Those farmers made the connection between their livelihood and the idea of a proposed facility that would carry their identity-preserved rice to the Mexican market.

Thus, the real meaning of quality lies not just in the grain itself, but rather in the connections that stem from the grain and carry it through the field to the buyers and, ultimately, to the consumers.

“The quality of the connections is the key to quality.”