4th Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: Sociology: What is life like for Gulf Coast rice farmers?


STUDY GUIDE

Rice farmers live in rural areas or small town communities. In some areas, like the southeastern Texas town of Katy, the community itself grew around rice farming. Katy, Texas is still centered on rice farming today. The first person to grow rice in Katy was a German immigrant named William Eule who arrived in 1897. He farmed his first crop with the surface water near his fields. But the second year he dug wells in order to irrigate his fields. His rice yields prospered and soon many other families came to grow rice in the fertile prairie of Katy. The Eule family established a school in their home for their children and the neighbors' children. Early Katy farming families also grew fresh vegetables for themselves. Rice was generally cultivated to be sent to market.

Today Katy continues as a growing, small town of about 11,700 people, just 30 miles outside of the city center of Houston, Texas. In fact, the west side of Houston has spread to Katy. Yet, the residents still enjoy small town life, but with the added conveniences of a large city such as shopping complexes, planned communities, great schools and varied housing options.

Like in most rice growing regions, Katy enjoys mild winters. Summers in these subtropic regions are warm and humid. Rice farms and the areas around them are generally healthy environments. Studies have shown that water flowing out of a flooded rice field is actually cleaner than when it first flowed into the field. Flooded rice fields are also healthy habitats for waterfowl like geese and ducks.

Rice farming is hard work. But in the United States all aspects of rice cultivation are mechanized. Less hand labor and fewer people are needed to grow rice in the U.S. than in other parts of the world. The rice fields are seeded using grain drills or airplanes. Combines harvest the field and separate the rice grains from the stems of the plant.

The wealth of rice farmers is linked to the health and prosperity of their crops. Conditions on the international market also affect the rice farmer because they set the price of rice. For these reasons, the U.S. government is heavily involved in programs to help rice farmers. The government provides funds so that U.S. rice farmers can improve their farms and offer competitive prices for their rice in order to be able to continue to provide food for all of us. The United States rice farmer is known throughout the world for being an efficient farmer, providing high quality rice and for being good for the environment.

Rice farmers in Arkansa, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas, all have the same goals of growing a high quality product and earning good prices. But farming practices differ. In Texas, irrigation is dependent on deep wells and river pumping stations. In Missouri, water is more abundant and wells are much shallower. One water management challenge faced in southwestern Louisiana, that is not faced elsewhere, is that the water has a high salt content. In California rice is farmed very efficiently. Among other improvements, California rice farmers have been able to reduce water usage by a third.

All of these different practices have the same goals, to keep rice farming an efficient, environmentally safe, high quality component of United States agriculture and society for decades to come.




ACTIVITIES

In your own words, describe what rice farming in the U.S. is like.




EXTENDED LEARNING

Would you like to live in a rice farming town like Katy, Texas? Tell why or why not in a one page paper.


VOCABULARY

  • irrigation
  • immigrant
  • fertile
  • amenities



Click here to play Rice Rampage!
Rice Farm Animals:
Rice farms have lots of animals. Click here to learn more about rice farms and the animals that live there.
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