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Destination: Carolina Gold Rice – with farmer Rollen Chalmers

Carolina Gold Rice –
The Golden Crop of The Antebellum Low Country


Did you know that Georgia and South Carolina Low Country areas were the home of rice during the 1700’s and 1800’s? The area was the location of many plantations growing a commercial commodity, which made the area known for rice and the plantation owners financially successful.

Rice was a West African crop, grown by people with the knowledge and skills to plant and harvest the crop. Adding rice to the crops grown in the new country (America) involved bringing people to the country who knew how to get the crops quickly from start-up to financial success. Africans were brought over to do just that; enslaved and working to make several rice varieties prosper in the area.

Carolina Gold Rice was one such rice. People knew it for its golden heads of rice, which glowed and shimmered in the sunlight. The rice grew well in the Low Country soil, and golden rice fields were successfully developed, harvested, and rice sold.

One family who has a legacy of growing this rice from their enslaved ancestors until today is the Rollen Chalmers family. He wants the tradition and the history to remain known, recognized, and appreciated today and for future generations. He shares his story on Travel Bags With Annita. Click the playlist below to hear his story.



Glenn Roberts is the president of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, and on the show, he helps set the context for rice and why it’s so essential to revitalize this heritage crop. His work at Anson Mills produces various delicious grains available for the general public.




Dr. Sarah Ross is the director of the UGA Agricultural Research facility at Wormsloe near Savannah. Sarah leads the project to grow the Carolina Gold Rice and experience the process from start to finish.





Gather ’round and listen to the lively conversation with Annita and Rollen.

And, you’ll want to take note of the  website for Wormsloe, one of Georgia’s Historic Sites near Savannah.

Please take a seat as we travel the Lowcountry, finding jewels of info along the way.

Oh, and leave a comment and let us know what you thought of the show.

Here’s the playlist:

Plan a visit to the Georgia State Historic Site – Wormsloe  Visit the Wormsloe website for hours, directions and more information.

Photos from our two days cutting rice.


Carolina Gold Rice
Rollen Chalmers cutting rice at Wormsloe.

Carolina Gold Rice
Sarah Ross works on harvesting and cutting the Gopher rice.


Carolina gold Rice
Fanner baskets are shallow and dish-like, and were used for cleaning and chaffing harvested rice. The flat and shallow shape allowed wind to help remove the husk from the rice grains by the tossing and catching of the rice in the air.  The basket was moved in a back and forth motion; in a fanning manner. By 1800, grain cleaning mills, known as winnowing houses,  replaced Fanner baskets. Today the baskets are consider collectors items and are highly-prized African-American cultural art.   The use of fanner type baskets continues in West Africa, where they are used for cooking, covering food, storage, transporting items and most noteworthy, they continue their use in rice processing.


Carolina Gold Rice
A freshly cut head of rice. A group of the top golden grain part of the rice is called a head of rice.


Carolina Gold Rice
A head of rice. Just cut!


Carolina Gold Rice
Rice fields in the Low Country are plots trenched and dug-out for the passage of water into the field.


Carolina Gold Rice
A little time for reflection before the start of harvest. Time to give homage to the enslaved ancestors who worked in the fields with no choice to say yes or no; but today there is a chance to talk to Rollen Chalmers, a descendant of those enslaved rice laborers and hear his story of legacy told with pride and love for the rice.


Carolina Gold Rice
Carolina Gold Rice milled and processed. Ready for a meal.


Carolina Gold Rice
Close up of milled rice.


Carolina Gold Rice
Carolina Gold Middlins are the “shorts, brokens or middlins”, that are a by-product of milling Carolina Gold rice. Nothing is wasted. The Middlins are like the coarse grits of rice; and they are a little more creamier than the longer rice grains.


Carolina Gold Rice
A close up of the Carolina Gold Middlins

A quick look at the action in the rice field.

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One comment

  1. Very interested in the history of rice grown by enslaved ancestors

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