We are big fans of Tex-Mex food in the Oplt house. And we love those classic stuffed poblano peppers with cheesy potatoes that you can find in good Mexican restaurants. There are enough meat and vegetarian versions of this dish to keep both me and my hubby satisfied. So when my market farmers started showing up with big green and red poblanos….well, you know we are headed to the border via my kitchen.

Photo banner of Blake Gerard with marketing copy for riceWe are, however, making a detour back home in Illinois so that I can introduce you to a new acquaintance. His name is Blake Gerard, and he is currently the only farmer in Illinois growing rice—beautiful brown and white non-GMO varieties that contain significantly higher amounts of protein than conventional brands.

Like many of the people featured on Green Gal of the Midwest, Blake is tied to the land through family and commitment to sustainability. He named his rice after the Cahokia Indian tribes who first farmed the fertile land near the Mississippi that has been the site of Blake’s family farm for four generations. What makes Blake unique and his operation environmentally sustainable is the switch he made from more common commodity crops like corn and wheat to this high-end rice.

His location close to the Mississippi River provides his fields with natural and efficient irrigation for the already nutrient-rich soil. He adds to this “best-in-class soil conservation practices”. The result is the elimination of erosion, guaranteeing the preservation of his soil and its rich fertility for generations to come. Through sustainable techniques, Blake’s Cahokia Rice reduces the farm’s environmental footprint, as well as the price to his customers for this superior product.

open bag of Cahokia RiceI bought a 32-ounce bag for just $5. Amazingly good, this rice is guaranteed to be milled and packaged in small batches. It performed just beautifully in the following recipe—and you know me, kinda picky about my rice. At Cahokia Rice, Blake and his team are committed to providing fresh, locally grown rice to the southern Illinois community and beyond, priding themselves as an “authentic farm to table provider”.

And about all the peppers—the poblanos are from Biver Farm and The Family Garden. The habanero—a strikingly pretty peach color—and the sweet bells are from Daydream Farm. Just a bunch of fiery friends making great food! Like them all on Facebook and support them at the Land of Goshen Community Market. We’ll just need to convince Cahokia Rice to put up a market booth in Edwardsville.

So get out a big skillet—this dish has a couple of make-ahead steps, but it is basically one-pot, once the peppers are blackened and the rice is chilling in the frig. You can start this dish ahead if need be and finish it up later in the day…or even the next day. Further, stuffing peppers is so labor intensive, don’t ya think? So why bother. Here they are nestled into the beautiful rice mixture just long enough to get cozy and warm and then scooped onto the plate. Gotta love that!

 

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So a skillet full of flavor from an amazing group of close-to-home friends–is there a better way to celebrate harvest time? It was all so easy… huh… hold on a minute. The cooking was easy because my ingredients are so fresh and healthy and clean. But I’m a lucky green gal in that respect. How my farmer friends get this food to market is a lot—and I mean A LOT—harder. They won’t complain, of course, because they are committed and love what they do. But the truth is, there is a lot wrong with U.S. Agriculture when it comes to supporting high-integrity small producers. Bottom line: the support just isn’t there.

I would ask that as you enjoy your next market-inspired meal, you take a peek at this informative and somewhat maddening article from Delicious Living Magazine. In the print version it’s called Crop Circles, which I find so poetically on point. Online it’s called The Trouble with U.S. Agriculture, leaving no room for confusion. You’ll meet a wonderful woman named Danelle Myer, who is doing everything right on her family farm but without much help. This article spells out the problems inherent in the current version of the 2018 proposed Farm Bill and gives suggestions for consumers to initiate change through grassroots efforts. So maybe you and I need to step up to the farm table to demand better. Food for thought.