Blake Gerard knew something had to change. Severe floods along the Mississippi River had wiped out this fourth-generation farmer’s corn and soybean crop yet again.
He knew he had to find something that could survive Old Man River. Enter rice – a commodity with 90% of production located in Asia.
By partnering with Market Wagon, Blake can focus his efforts on growing the best rice and he can let others focus on growing its popularity around the Midwest, utilizing the Market Wagon platform and a local supply chain.
At the beginning, neighboring farmers thought Blake was a little crazy. In fact, some of them still don’t quite understand. But he’s proving them wrong as he continues to replace more of his traditional cash crops with a new product.
In 2016, his operation took a major step forward. Blake bought the rights to a non-GMO strain of rice developed by scientists at LSU. They naturally bred a high-protein strain with a tasty variety with excellent cooking qualities to create Cahokia rice.
“It’s really good stuff,” says Blake. “My rice has not been genetically modified in any way, yet it combines the best of both worlds—a delicious grain that is very healthy.”
To better understand the health benefits, you must have a quick nutrition lesson.
The glycemic index of a food refers to the amount any food causes blood sugar to rise. Water or a pure protein food like eggs has a value of 0. Pure sugar or glucose has a value of 100.
Cahokia Rice’s white rice has a value of 41, which is well below the bar for a food that’s considered as having a low glycemic index, which is 55. Brown rice’s number is even lower.
It’s important because it means, in proper portions, it’s a good dietary option for diabetics and other people worried about blood sugar. It’s also an ideal menu option for athletes who want a high protein diet but don’t want the crash that comes following a spike in blood sugar.
Blake is grateful that he could use the money he earned by selling on the Market Wagon platform in a handful of markets in Illinois and Indiana to pay for the expensive test.
“Proving that Cahokia Rice has a low glycemic index is a big deal,” Blake says. “It means we really have a healthy and nutritious non-GMO option for folks. And best of all, it’s grown locally.”
Blake farms about 3,000 acres in Southern Illinois. About 60% of his fields grow rice. While some is sold as a commodity or for seed, the percentage of Cahokia brand sold as a retail product continues to rise as he works with Market Wagon to sell directly to consumers all over the Midwest as part of the Beyond Local options in Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.
Blake believes working with Market Wagon is a natural fit.
“We have the same philosophy,” Blake says. “Offer all-natural local goods to lots of people, supplying families and businesspeople. Invest in the community. High quality is important to Market Wagon and it’s important to me.”