Nestled in the heart of Northeast Louisiana lies the 4Sisters Farm, a place where rice farming isn't just about swampy lands, combines, and levees. It's a way of life.
To gain insight into the day-to-day of working on this unique Louisiana farm, we sat down with our 4Sisters Rice Farm Manager, Chanel Carter, who took us on a visual journey through a typical day at 4Sisters Rice.
Rise and shine, and check the weather
As the sun peeks over the horizon, a new day begins at 4Sisters Rice. The life of a Farm Manager is as dynamic as the changing seasons.
Your primary responsibility? To cultivate the best rice crop possible while ensuring the integrity of the entire farm, which means taking care of both your people and your crop.
The day starts with a glance at the weather forecast and the latest agricultural news, essential for planning daily operations. Clear communication and checking in with the crew to confirm tasks, whether it's planting, coordinating sprays, or inspecting the fields, ensures everyone knows their role and understands their daily goals.
Flexibility is key on the farm, as priorities will shift as rapidly as the weather can.
During different times of the year, the focus varies.
“In some seasons, you're deeply involved in reporting and collaborating with government agencies to certify your crops; other seasons are more focused on the fields, drying them for the year’s harvest or preparing them for the following harvest.”
The Rice Lifestyle: from Planting to Harvesting
Rice cultivation at 4Sisters Farm is all about following nature’s lead, with each season offering its unique challenges and rewards.
Planting begins in the Spring from April to May preparing the soil and the land for a summer-fall crop. The fields are prepared by removing rocks and weeds and leveling the land for a flat growing surface.
The growing season unfolds in the Summer from May to June; the maturity date on most grains is typically about 120 days. With rice being a semi-aquatic plant, the paddy fields are flooded to nurture the rice's growth and manage pests and weeds. Growing rice in water has some of the most optimal conditions for producing high yields.
As Fall rolls around, the rice reaches maturity, and the water is then released and drained to harvest the crop using our tailwater recovery system you can read more about it here. This water is then reused to create a habitat for numerous aquatic species or for flooding the fields for the next growing season. The grain is then transported directly from the field to our farm elevator in Mer Rouge, where it's then dried, tempered, and milled to maintain its quality.
In the Winter, from December to January, fieldwork takes a pause as conservation efforts and planning for next year’s harvest take center stage. The 4Sisters rice fields along the Mississippi Flyway serve as vital stopovers and sanctuaries for local Louisiana wildlife such as alligators and crawfish and a number of migratory birds such as waterfowl, egrets, dowitchers, plovers, sandpipers, avocets, yellowlegs, white belly whistling ducks, red-winged blackbirds, roseate spoonbills, and even some animals on the extinct list such as the Limpkin bird. Louisiana is a coastal state so pretty much any shorebird that comes through the state makes its first stop here in these rice fields as they make their way back north in the springtime, then they bottleneck right here again as a last stop before they migrate across the Gulf of Mexico.
During these end-of-year/new-year preparations is also when decisions on contracts, acreage, and grain varieties are made to meet supply chain needs.
Harnessing Sustainability, Community Engagement, and Technology
With a growing global population, rice remains a staple household food, and with traditional rice farming practices being outdated and heavily intensive on the environment, one of our biggest priorities at 4Sisters Rice is making sure we continue to innovate how we grow sustainably on the farm while maintaining the best crop possible.
Sustainability and community support are integral to the 4Sisters Rice mission. The farm engages in various sustainable initiatives, including donations to the local food bank, inviting team members to participate actively in community projects, and sponsoring local events. During National Rice Month this year, we donated two pallets of 4Sisters rice, feeding over 13,000 people in the local community.
Yearly contributions to organizations like the Reece Kemmerly Foundation and the Local Food Bank are one of our favorite ways to give back.
Farming over 2,000 acres of land successfully also requires the need for cutting-edge technology.
“When we operate as many acres as we do, it’s hard to really see the full picture of the health of all of our fields. A lot of times we’ll be driving around the edge of the fields, and we can see the outside of the fields, but we don't really know what’s going on on the inside. The top-down imagery from our satellite imagery shows us the health of the crop on the entire field, and this is extremely helpful.”
This type of satellite imagery technology ensures no detail goes unnoticed, even in vast fields, and helps identify crop health and stress areas.
We also use John Deere's My Operation platform which allows for remote monitoring of farm machinery and real-time data on machine performance and field progress. This not only optimizes efficiency but also allows Chanel to feel like she can multiply her efforts by keeping an eye on operations from anywhere.
The 4Sisters Rice Varieties
We produce two main varieties of rice here at 4Sisters Rice, each with distinct flavors and qualities. Long-grain rice is the foundation for white and brown rice, offering a comforting and homey flavor, what you would use to cook your gumbos and rice bowls. Jasmine rice, on the other hand, is aromatic with a slightly floral note, making it an excellent choice for dishes with a hint of spice.
Looking for some rice recipe ideas?
Here are some of our favorite recipes:
Halibut Taco Bowl using our Jasmine Rice
Spinach, Sausage, and Rice Muffins using our Organic Brown Rice
Chicken Pie with Crispy Rice Crust using our Organic White Rice
Quality and Safety at 4Sisters Rice
The quality and safety of our crop and facilities is extremely important to us at 4Sisters Rice. We’re a BRC-certified facility (Global Standard for Food Safety), an internationally recognized mark of food quality, safety, and responsibility. We’re Non-GMO certified meaning all of our products are made without genetic engineering and adhere to certain standards of testing, traceability, and segregation. We’re also proud to be a gluten-free and allergen-free facility avoiding any form of cross-contamination.
At the farm level, we’re QAI (Quality Assurance International) certified, an international organic production certification. Each year all of our facilities have inspections by our certification body, and we hold ourselves accountable to these standards always ready and prepared for an audit.
We asked Chanel more about her personal experience as Farm Manager at 4Sisters Rice and here’s what she had to share:
What’s one of your favorite memories on the farm as Farm Manager at 4Sisters Rice?
“Bringing someone new to the farm, maybe someone who’s never been on a rice farm, and being able to share with them where the rice they're eating is coming from, it’s an eye-opening experience for people. This is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Also, here’s my toddler eating hack if you need to get them to eat something - show them how their food is grown and where it comes from, and they will eat it. My kids’ favorites are the Butter Belle white rice pouch, followed by the Chelsea Cheese cheesy brown rice pouch. ”
What advice would you give to someone interested in getting involved in rice farming and rice agriculture?
“Get out on the farm, reach out to us, and experience it for yourself. It’s like teaching someone how to ride a bike; the person who gets on it every day is going to be light years ahead of the person who only gets on it once a year. Get outside, put your boots on, and get out there!”
It’s one thing to read about farming, study it, and listen to podcasts, but it’s way different when you’re actually out there getting your hands dirty; there’s no substitute for hands-on experience and a deep connection to the land.
At 4Sisters Rice, the farm isn't just a place we call work; it's a community, a steward of sustainability, and a provider of nourishment, a home for the waterfowl. It's a story of hard work, dedication, and a love for the land and our people that resonates with everyone who steps foot on this Louisiana gem.
Fun 4Sisters Rice facts
Did you know that white rice and brown rice come from the same grain? White rice is just brown rice without the bran and germ layers.
All of our rice by products go somewhere else on the supply chain whether it's for chicken bedding, biofuel, or soil nourishment.
Our rice fields provide habitat for over 12 species of migratory birds and a variety of local Louisana wildlife.
4Sisters Rice is now found in over 7,000 stores nationwide and continues to grow. With the rise of online grocery shopping after the pandemic, we’ve also launched our direct-to-consumer online store, where you can find all of our latest products.