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Meet the Sisters Behind This Family Legacy Rice Farm

As September arrives, we officially enter into the heart of National Rice Month, a time to appreciate the rich history and significance of this small yet essential staple in our diets, highlight fun and new rice recipes, as well as encourage rice lovers to stock up on their favorite pantry staple.

The Kennedy Sisters - Lousiana

With the launch of our new blog, we’d love to share with you the 4Sisters Rice story and the legacy we work towards every day. Read on as we uncover the story behind these four sisters carrying on their father’s 54-year-old rice farm legacy, as well as the values that shape their commitment to sustainable farming for our future generations.


The Family Rice Farm Legacy


Elton Kennedy - Lousiana

Elton Kennedy always wanted to be a farmer. He’s the youngest of 3 older sisters and was born into a ministry family in northeast Louisiana, where he raised calves from his uncle’s dairy farm.


“When I had an opportunity to lease land with an option to buy in the early 60s in Northeast Louisiana, that’s when it started.”

Elton began farming wheat with just a few hundred acres; then, in 1969, he leased rice quota to begin farming rice. Soon after, his career took a momentous leap forward in 1973 when the value of rice increased 2-3 times its historical value.


Elton then began a 20-year relationship with Riviana Foods, one of the largest companies specializing in the milling and marketing of rice. This collaboration really propelled him forward and allowed him to foster a wealth of knowledge and expertise in every facet of the rice farming industry.


The Kennedy Sisters


The Kennedy Family - Lousiana
Felicity, Chantel, Elton, Meryl & Patchez

Elton thought he’d one day have a son to help take over the family business.


“As it turns out, having four daughters ended up working out just the same. I am beyond proud of the hard work and dedication they have put into growing what I started back in the 60s, coming together, and building something that will be here long after I’m gone. Working with my girls has been extremely rewarding, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.”


Life growing up on the farm involved “check on the farm” days, office work as teenagers, and lots of one-on-one time with Dad, full of life lessons and farm knowledge.


But it wasn’t love at first sight for all four Kennedy Sisters.


After 12 years of leaving small-town Mer Rouge for city life, Dad offered Patchez and her husband an opportunity to move back and work with him on the farm. She felt the pull to return home, finding comfort in being surrounded by family and childhood friends. Patchez worked in marketing and packaging for the first 7 years at 4Sisters Rice and now chooses to focus on recipe development due to her background in food and nutrition.


Chantel went through her “I can’t wait to get away” phase but soon after met and married her husband, who is now the farm manager. She started as the office secretary, raised her three children, and now holds down the reins as the Sustainability Manager collecting sustainability data on the farm as they perfect their seed-to-table process.


Felicity also had her time away from the farm life and worked as an Occupational Therapist for many years until she decided to come aboard as the Brand Ambassador and Co-founder for 4Sisters Rice.


Meryl, on the other hand, had other dreams that didn’t necessarily involve farming rice.

“He would take me to the farm and ride me around in his truck for hours, trying to teach me about water systems and how to plant rice. To say I was not interested would probably be an understatement, I just didn’t believe that I would enjoy farming, and I really had no other examples of women as farmers.”

Meryl had gone on to study at the University of Georgia and had plans to get her master’s degree abroad at Oxford University. Elton, knowing she might never come back, had another idea up his sleeve.


He told her he would pay for her graduate studies if she came back from college to work for him for the summer.


That’s when everything changed.


That summer, Meryl watched in admiration what rice farming really entailed through the eyes of her father.


“In the off-season, he was conducting business with people all around the world in his dusty little office in rural Louisiana. I was truly shocked as I watched him hold dynamic conversations on weather patterns globally, the farm bill with politicians nationwide, and trade rice on the Chicago Board of Exchange, all while preparing for the next crop year. He, along with his team, had simply taken a business that they loved and turned it into a thriving enterprise. It was then that I knew that with his support, we could develop this business to the next level. It was always my dad’s dream to have a brand. We just took that dream and made it a reality.”

And to the next level, they took it.


4Sisters Rice



4sisters rice logo

Envisioning the need to bring sustainable, organic, and conventional rice products to consumers nationwide, the four Kennedy Sisters decided to launch their own retail brand in 2019 and named it 4Sisters Rice. 4Sisters Rice is inspired by the sisters' farm-focused upbringing and the knowledge and care about rice farming their father shared with them at a young age.



This women-owned rice brand includes an array of organic, conventional, specialty, and kid-friendly rice varieties.



Kids Products


The relationships and connections made through our Women’s Business Enterprise National Council Certification translated into the distribution of our 4Sisters Rice brand to major retailers nationwide, such as Walmart and Kroger.


Today, the Kennedy family owns and operates one of the largest rice companies in the US, managing an expanse and a network of local suppliers and family farmers who grow their crop of over 25,000 acres with a state-of-the-art rice mill keeping the Kennedy family agribusiness production flowing which includes rice farming, drying, milling and distribution, grain storage, grain marketing, land management, and real estate.


We’ve proudly established fruitful partnerships with renowned national retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Publix, successfully expanding our reach.


Sustainable Rice Solutions


At 4Sisters Rice, we believe sustainability begins and ends with people. We've expanded our retail offerings to encompass a range of organic and conventional rice options using sustainable farming practices.


We use rice hulls and cattle manure to enhance soil quality, have significantly reduced our use of chemicals and fertilizers to protect our soil from erosion and use rainwater and natural water sources to fill reservoirs.


Herons in 4sisters rice cultivation


We’re aware that there is so much more we could do, and we’re committed to refining our sustainable farming solutions to actively do our part against climate change and to pass our legacy of sustainable farming to the next generation of farmers.


To read about our full sustainability story and commitments, go here.


Supporting Local Communities


At 4Sisters Rice, we’re committed to cultivating not only healthy soils and optimal rice-growing environments, but we also recognize the importance of a thriving community to build a lasting legacy. Our success lies in our community partnerships with like-minded farmers, suppliers, and distributors who share our values.


4sisters rice donation - USA Rice and Food Bank

Donations to food banks are a regular practice at 4Sisters Rice. One of our largest fundraisers is for the Boys and Girls Club of North Louisiana. As Meryl and Chantel serve on the Bastrop Committee, and Meryl additionally holds a position on the Louisiana state board, it’s important to the Kennedy sisters, who are mothers themselves, to enhance opportunities, community building, and access to resources for rural children in Louisiana to learn and grow in a healthy environment.


We’ve also partnered with United Way and the Salvation Army to provide meals and rice for hungry Americans year-round. In addition, our collaboration with Reece Kemmerly Foundation and the students at Prairie View Academy, who organize an annual food drive in honor of William Reece Kemmerly, has been one of our favorite ways of giving back to the community. This October 2023 marks the 15th anniversary of this food drive, which has served and fed over 900 families since its inception.

Today, Meryl, CEO, Founder of 4Sisters Rice, and President of the USA Rice Millers Association (the first woman and youngest person to chair this organization in 123 years) is a fierce advocate for local farms and represents the next generation of farm owners, many of whom have joined the new wave of women farmers. She enjoys mentoring young women pursuing careers in agriculture and speaking to local civic organizations related to rural issues and agriculture.


Meryl Kennedy

“As agriculture is a predominately male industry, it took a couple of years to find my footing. At some point in everyone’s career, it is easier to quit or tell yourself that it is better to take a backseat position. This is especially true for women; we have lots of outside pressures that hinder us from pushing forward. However, real entrepreneurs and industry changers do not have the luxury of taking a backseat when times get tough. I have found that resilience and sheer perseverance are highly respected by all and will carry you a long way.”




Part of the 4Sisters Rice commitment is to pave a path for other women passionate about rice farming but may easily feel intimidated or overwhelmed, especially if they do not see themselves represented in these spaces. 4Sisters Rice is about showing these women that although it may be the road less traveled, it’s possible.


 

Our father is a true legend and the superhero of our family. It’s an honor to carry on his legacy, but more importantly, to have had the opportunity to work with him daily. He didn’t have to pour his knowledge of a male-dominated industry into four young girls, but he did it anyway. Today, there are more women farmers in this country and globally than ever before in history. It’s our job to encourage young women that they don’t need to be driving the tractor to be a farmer. Life on the farm takes many shapes and forms, and it will take both men and women to drive agriculture literally and figuratively into the next century.



4Sisters Rice is now found in over 7,000 stores nationwide - USA

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. Shop 4Sisters Rice on...


this National Rice Month to support directly from our farm to your home!



 



4sisters logo


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Mary Diamond
Mary Diamond
Sep 13, 2023

Dear Four Sisters,

I grew up the youngest of four sisters. One day, about 2 years ago, I saw Four Sisters Rice on the shelf at Food Lion Supermarket. Obviously, I had to buy a bag.

This is what I determined about that bag of Four Sisters Jasmine rice:

Each grain of rice=outstanding in texture and especially flavor. In short …BEST RICE EVER👍🏻 Thank you for caring about your family and rice. Love shines through.

Sincerely…mjd


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