3rd Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: Geography: How did rice farming begin in Texas?


There are six states that farm rice in the United States. Texas is one of them. The other states are Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri. The earliest form of rice farming in Texas was like farming around the world since very early times. No machines were used. All the work in growing rice, from planting seeds to harvesting the rice and milling it was done by hand.

Farmers plowed small plots with oxen, planted seed by hand and harvested their crop with hand sickles. A sickle is a curved long blade with a handle. It is used for cutting small plants and grass. Milling rice was done with a crude mortar and pestle. Rice grains were put into the mortar and pounded with a pestle. The hull was broken and the rice was forced out. The husk was then blown away, separating it from the rice. The grain from the early rice farms was used by nearby towns and families.

The size of rice farms began to grow in southeast Texas as early as 1853. Several factors helped the progress of rice farming.

Completion of the southern transcontinental railroad in 1883
Purchase of the transcontinental railroad by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1885
Availability of cheap land on the coastal prairies
Introduction of modern rice mills
Immigrants from Louisiana and from the grain producing areas of the Midwest.
Immigrants from the Midwest brought with them combines and other farm machinery. Irrigation improved with the use of pumps, canals, and modern irrigation systems. Improved varieties of rice were introduced. As a result rice crops increased.

In 1904, rice seed from Japan was introduced to the area around the Gulf of Mexico. Japanese farmers came to Texas to help local farmers grow the new seed.

Before the new seed was used, the yield of rice per acre was 18-20 barrels. When the Japanese rice was grown, the yield of rice per acre grew to 34 barrels. For the first three years the harvest was sold only to be used as seed to farmers in Louisiana and Texas. Rice grown from the older seed was still used for cooking and eating.

Texas rice mills operated in the cities of Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange and Houston. Rice milled in Texas went to markets around the world. The rice traveled by railroad to ocean ports in Houston and Galveston. The rice was loaded on ships to go to ports throughout the world.

During World War I, prices of goods fell. Rice farmers, like others, had to face hardships. This was followed by even more hard times during the Great Depression.

Today, Texas rice farmers use scientific ways of farming. They use modern machinery and computers for irrigation and land leveling. Texas is able to produce 6,500 pounds of rice per acre. Many kinds of rice are grown in Texas.

More people are now enjoying rice. New world markets have opened. Texas and United States rice farmers will be busy for many years to come.


Using a map of the United States, find Texas and color the state. Mark and identify on your map, Port Arthur, Beaumont, Orange, Houston and Galveston.


Develop a timeline for the growth of rice farming in Texas. Illustrate your timeline.


  • sickle
  • mortar
  • pestle
  • hull
  • husk
  • prairies

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
Baldo is actually a type of specialty rice grown right here in the U.S. Other types include basmati, jasmine and arborio.
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