In 2021, PJ Haynie and Billy Bridgeforth founded Arkansas River Rice with a simple yet powerful vision: to bring more diversity to the rice industry while offering the best rice available. Their vast knowledge and experience in farming set their rice mill apart, and they quickly gained recognition as the only Black-owned rice mill in the U.S.
As stewards of the work that came before them, PJ and Billy see themselves as part of a legacy of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. They recognize the bravery and persistence of the people who paved the way for them, and they honor that legacy every day through their work at Arkansas River Rice.
One way they do this is by advocating for the best interests of Black farmers locally, statewide, and nationally. PJ and Billy proudly serve on the National Black Growers Council (NBGC), a coalition of Black farmers and agricultural professionals working to improve the efficiency, productivity, and sustainability of Black row crop farmers.
This is particularly important given the stark reality of the current state of Black farming in the U.S. 100 years ago, 1 in 4 farmers in America were Black and owned 16 million acres of land. Today, Black farmers represent less than two percent of the entire U.S. farming population and own about 2 million acres. That’s a 14 million acre difference in the last century!
But PJ, Billy, and their team at Arkansas River Rice are working to change that. They recognize that closing the wealth gap for Black farmers is crucial for boosting economics for the Black agricultural community as a whole. And they’re doing their part by providing high-quality rice to customers across the country, while also investing in the future of Black farming through their work with the NBGC.
As the only Black-owned rice mill in the U.S., Arkansas River Rice is a testament to the power of diversity and resilience in the face of adversity. By honoring the legacy of the past and working towards a brighter future, PJ, Billy, and their team are paving the way for a more equitable and sustainable rice industry for generations to come.