Behind the Greens

“From farm gate to dinner plate.” That’s the motto of fifth-generation farmer Campbell Coxe, whose Carolina Plantation Rice business specializes in locally grown heirloom rice. It’s also the first and only business in South Carolina to be nationally recognized as Green-e Certified for using renewable energy.

E Magazine: Why did you choose green energy for your company?

Campbell Coxe: We were already doing other green things like using biodiesel, cutting down on pesticide use through no-till farming, recycling our oil, etc., so the green energy aspect already fit our routine. I figured, why not go another step? Farmers are the original conservationists anyway.

E: What makes Carolina Plantation Rice unique?

CC: For one, it’s 100% natural long-grain rice—that’s it. No preservatives, no additives, nothing except long grain rice. Also, our rice isn’t bleached, unlike most commercial rice. It’s white, but it’s also got some variations of color because it’s all-natural. And the same people handle the rice from the day it’s planted to the day it’s shipped and that’s very unique in today’s business climate.

E: How do you account for the sudden interest in heirloom seeds?

CC: With the genetically modified crops, we’re getting to the point where we are so far away from the original that some crops don’t taste like they’re supposed to. I’ve got some heirloom tomatoes in my yard and they really have a different taste than these bigger, supposedly better, genetically modified foods that have been messed with over and over again. Sure, these foods produce more, last longer, and have a prettier texture, but it all goes back to taste.

E: As board secretary for the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, you’ve helped raise awareness about the importance of preserving heirloom grains. What motivates you?

CC: As a South Carolinian, the rice culture is an important part of my heritage. We have to protect these heirloom grains and avoid losing any more of them. Thousands of heirloom grains have gone by the wayside because there was no demand for them, so it’s really important to hang onto these seeds. And it’s important to grow them out every year and put them into the public.

E: What’s the key for cultivating the perfect rice crop?

CC: The soil and the water. In South Carolina, the river floods into these deep fields and all this rich topsoil is deposited on these big flats of land. Plus, we don’t use deep ground aquifer water. Instead, all of our water comes out of the river, which is much better for the environment and the crops. Surface water tends to have more nutrients than aquifer water, which is purified or “stale.” That’s what makes our rice different. It’s well suited for the land.