Visitors are invited to take part in the centuries-old tradition of rice cultivation in the Low Country April 28, 10am-3pm (subject to change due to weather conditions) as Middleton Place plants the demonstration rice field. Costumed interpreters will instruct guests in traditional methods of planting, discuss the history of the famed Carolina Gold rice, and explain the African origins of rice and its cultivation in South Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors may help with the actual planting of rice in the fields.
While many associate cotton as the dominant crop in the antebellum South, for more than 125 years rice was the supreme cash crop in the Low Country. Rice propelled Charleston to becoming the richest city in the colonies, creating vast wealth for the Middleton family. The Low Country’s tidal rivers once produced millions of pounds of the golden grain. Rice fields lined both sides of the Ashley River and other tidal rivers on the southeast coast from the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, to the St. John’s River in northern Florida. Middleton Place was the family seat and headquarters for a network of rice-producing plantations owned by the Middleton Family.
Traditionally, planting took place between early March and mid-June. After the fields were prepared with a system of protective dikes and drainage ditches, slaves used specially-designed wooden rakes to drag shallow furrows into the dry soil. Rice seed was dropped into the furrows and covered with a thin layer of dirt, which was often done with bare feet in the 18th and 19th centuries. The growing season for the Middleton Place demonstration rice field runs through approximately mid-September, ending with two days of rice harvest programming on dates to be determined in either late August or September.
For more information, call 843-556-6020 or visit www.middletonplace.org. Middleton Place is located at 4300 Ashley River Road, Charleston.