Shopping for specialty products from Arkansas's Delta — what better place to find rice? — can be done from the comfort of your home computer, by going to www.arkansasdeltamade.com. By doing so, you'll not only find all manner of gift items, but will support the entrepreneurs of Arkansas's poorest region.
A project of Arkansas Delta Rural Heritage, the website links to food purveyors, farmers, artists and authors from the 15-county area.
Beth Wiedower, director of the organization, said members must meet certain business standards. “Our committee meets and determines whether the merchant is ready to become a member … whether they're established enough to handle inventory and requests. We're not looking for people who do this as a hobby. We're looking to help the small business entrepreneur.” The site is supported by grants; there is no charge to the member.
Wiedower said there have been success stories since the site's founding in 2007, thanks to a combination of online marketing and shopping events the organization puts on.
For example: Backdoor Herbs and Granny Clay's. When the Arkansas Rice Depot discovered Granny Clay's and Backdoor Herbs at the Delta Made site, it placed orders “for several thousand items each for their holiday baskets,” Wiedower said. “In the last year and a half [Granny Clay's] expanded her product line twice. She started with just a pepper jelly product you spread on cream cheese. Now she does chocolate gravy mixture, a pineapple spread for the holidays and a few other pieces,” Wiedower said.
Not all the merchants on the website have online shopping, but many do, from catfish (Uncle Cat, Eudora) to tamales (Pasquale's Tamales, West Helena) to, of course, rice (Della's Gourmet Rice, Brinkley). There are links to makers of barbecue sauces, rubs, honey and spices; a crawfish outfit is there as well.
There's also pottery. Gail Miller's vessels (from Miller's Mud Mill in Dumas) were chosen by the Clinton School for Public Service for mementos presented to their speakers in their speaker's series. Handmade purses, quilts, paintings, candles … and more.