We had a very special visitor on one of our Arizona farms for the last couple weeks. Flat Aggie, Flat Stanley’s cousin, travels all over the United States visiting farms and ranches to learn about agriculture. Her stories are then shared with classrooms across the country, so students can learn the importance of agriculture. This was Flat Aggies’ 1 st ever trip to Arizona and she couldn’t have picked a better time of year! A big THANK YOU to Yuma farmer, John Boelts, for hosting Flat Aggie and for sharing some of Arizona’s lettuce story with kids across the country!

Hi! Flat Aggie here!

I have spent that last couple week on a lettuce farm in Arizona and I must be honest, I did not know that anything grew in the desert beside cactus! I was amazed to see that in a state that only averages 8 inches of rainfall a year and has an average summer temperature of 104 degrees, that agriculture is a big deal. Luckily, I got to visit Yuma, Arizona in the winter where days always reach at least 60 degrees (notice I can still wear a t-shirt).

Did you know that Yuma, Arizona is the Winter Lettuce Capitol of the World?! I might not have believed it until I saw all that beautiful lettuce on John Boelts farm. John Boelts is one of many farmers in Yuma that grow lettuce and lots of other vegetables. His farm is called Desert Premium Farms.

On my stay with Farmer John, I learned that before the yummy fresh vegetables can be planted, farmers make sure that the farmland is perfect for growing our food. Sometimes that means that farmers must put up fences around their fields to keep wildlife, dogs, and people out. This is an important step for keeping our food safe!

Water is very important for growing food! In Arizona, farmers use irrigation to water their crops because they do not get a lot of rain. Remember, Arizona’s average rainfall is only 8 inches a year! Irrigating crops allows farmers to give their crops the exact amount of water they need at the exact time they need. Look at the water going right to the roots!

Farmers work hard to grow safe and healthy food for all of us. Look at this beautiful field of romaine lettuce! You might notice another type of plant growing in this field…weeds! Weeds must be removed to ensure they don’t keep the lettuce from reaching its full potential. In this field, weeds are removed by the very important farm workers. Farm workers are very important, especially during the peak season. Yuma farmers require more than 45,000 workers during lettuce season to help with all the important jobs of weeding, harvesting and packing.

Although it might not snow on these fields, the temperature can get cold in the evening. Ice or frost can form on the outer leaves of lettuce in the early morning.  When this happens, harvesters wait until the lettuce warms up and the ice is gone before starting harvest for the day. This is done so they don’t damage the lettuce.

When the lettuce is ready to harvest, skilled harvesters cut the lettuce by hand. The lettuce then gets rinsed with clean water before going into the trailer to be hauled to the cooler, then on to the processing plant. Notice the protective clothes the workers must wear. They wear aprons, gloves, long pants, long shirts, hats, and hair nets. This is to help make sure that our food is safe. Food safety is one of the number 1 priorities on a farm!

I had so much fun visiting Desert Premium Farms in Yuma Arizona and I can’t wait to visit again soon. Until then, I will look for Desert Premium Farms lettuce in the grocery store sold under these labels!

Here is a short video on Flat Aggie with the lettuce harvest!

Want to learn more about Desert Premium Farms and John Boelts? Check out his website at https://www.johnboelts.com/ or follow him on Twitter at @JohnBoelts

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