Editor’s Note: Makenzie Bennett of Carlisle was crowned the 2013 Lonoke County Miss Rice during a competition in the spring. Periodically, she will be writing a column for the newspapers.

Ask any rice farmer in Lonoke County and he’ll tell you that farming rice is more than a job — it’s a way of life. For many of us, our families have been a part of the farming tradition for generations.

The rice farming tradition in Arkansas began right here in Lonoke County and in my hometown of Carlisle. Mr. W.H. Fuller planted the first rice field in Arkansas in 1896. The Carlisle Rice Mill, which we now know as Riviana, was opened in early 1909 and soon the production, milling, and research of rice were established industries.

One of the seven rice producing states in the country — Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Florida — Arkansas produces the most rice. To be exact, Arkansas rice accounts for about 48 percent of rice grown in America. It’s safe to say that rice farming is an important asset to the Arkansas economy since the industry brings in about one billion dollars annually.

Rice and the farmers who cultivate it are infinitely important in every aspect. As Arkansans, rice is vital to not only our state’s economy, but also to the livelihood of our small-town farmers. Rice is one of the components that makes us who we are. Next time you see one of our farmers, be sure to give them a big thank you.