Rosie on the House: The Latest About our Arizona Leafy Green Industry
On the eve of the latest Rosie on the House “Farm Fresh” segment, I sat at a table of six close friends at Sal’s in Gilbert for classically yummy Italian food. The first course was a crisp Caesar Salad. As if on cue I announced to my table, “All this Romaine we’re chomping on comes from Yuma since it’s winter.” They smiled, happily kept eating, and nodded pleased with my habit of eagerly contributing an ag fact here and there.
It was perfect timing since the next day, our featured commodity was leafy greens, and our featured guest was Kami (Weddle) Van Horn. Of course, I added that bit of information to the dinner conversation as well.
If a 2019 CDC study found that only 12.3% of U.S. adults consume the recommended levels of fruits and 10% consume the recommended levels of vegetables and today Yuma farmers produce 170 million servings of lettuce per day from November to April, can you imagine what kind of production our Arizona farmers would have to ramp up to in the winter if every American ate the recommended levels of vegetables?
170 million servings of lettuce produced daily in Yuma. Wow. This does not include the large number of leafy greens also grown in Pinal and Maricopa counties. If we want our green salad in winter, which by all appearances we do with that many servings, we must have Arizona growing leafy greens in the winter. This cannot be replicated anywhere else in the United States.
In the meantime, that Saturday morning Kami Van Horn gave a great overview of what goes on in the industry, helped us understand food safety efforts, and gave us some great salad recipes at the very end of the show. You can listen to the segment at the bottom of this article.
The Leafy Greens Facts
- Arizona leafy greens farming generates a $2 billion impact in Arizona each year.
- For the first time, a leafy green, Head Lettuce (at over $1 billion), beat out dairy and cattle as the top Arizona agriculture product in cash receipts in 2019 (2019 USDA statistics).
- In the meantime, 2022 USDA Leafy Greens Cash Receipts (Keep in mind this is just the cash receipts):
- Romaine Lettuce 1 $443M
- Head Lettuce 2 $374 M
- Leaf Lettuce 3 $153M
- Spinach 4 $150M
- Cabbage 5 $70M
- Arizona is the winter lettuce capital of the U.S. contributing 25% of lettuce production annually.
- November is “Arizona Leafy Greens Month.” It celebrates the kickoff of Arizona’s leafy greens season, with abundant growth, harvest, and shipments of Arizona-grown lettuce throughout the United States and Canada.
- Worth Repeating: Yuma farmers produce 170 million servings of lettuce per day from November to April eaten by Americans and Canadians.
- Yuma County ranks in the top 1/10th of 1% of U.S. counties in vegetable production.
- In Yuma, facilities supporting the growers and packers include 22 coolers and 10 salad plants.
- Farmers work to protect public health by participating in the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) program, which cultivates food safety practices, verifies on-farm compliance, utilizes data for improvement, and empowers industry with tools to advance food safety.
- Arizona consistently produces an abundance of nutritious and safe leafy greens.
- The desert southwest is the only place in the USA that can grow these tender crops in the wintertime, providing a fresh, wholesome, home-grown source of veggies. As it warms up, production will shift to California.
- Daily between Thanksgiving and Easter, 1,500 to 2,000 refrigerated semi-truckloads of leafy greens leave Yuma to deliver all over America and Canada so all of us can enjoy our leafy greens even during the wintertime.
- These refrigerated truckloads of vegetables can deliver to New York in 3 to 4 days and be on someone’s salad plate at the family dinner table or high-end restaurant fresh and ready to eat.
- Nearly 20% of Arizona’s leafy greens are produced organically and 80% conventionally to meet consumer interest in both.
- Arizona’s 15 leafy greens, covered by the Arizona Leafy Greens Agreement (AZ LGMA), which assures stringent food safety practices:
- Spring Mix
- Romaine Lettuce
- Butter Lettuce
- Iceberg Lettuce
- Green Leaf Lettuce
- Red Leaf Lettuce
- Baby Leaf Lettuce
- While Yuma County is considered America’s winter salad bowl, lots of leafy greens are coming from Arizona’s Maricopa and Pinal Counties too.
- Eating more leafy greens is healthy for you! Leafy greens, especially the dark green ones, are packed with phytonutrients, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- The darker leafy greens are rich in A, C, E and K, and broccoli, Bok choy and mustards are also rich in several B vitamins.
- Kale contains more Vitamin C than oranges.
- Bok Choy, though celery-like in appearance, belongs to the cabbage family.
- Collard greens have been studied for their ability to lower cholesterol.
- Cabbage dates to the 1600s. Some drink juiced cabbage for stomach and intestinal issues.
- The Vitamin K contained in dark leafy vegetables is good for protecting bones from osteoporosis and helping prevent inflammatory diseases.
- The most appealing benefits of dark green leafy vegetables are their low calorie and carbohydrate content and their low glycemic index.
- Romaine lettuce is one of the five lettuce types and an excellent source of folate and vitamin K.
- Spinach is a natural hydrator with raw spinach 91% water. It’s an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, folate, potassium, and fiber.
- Eating more leafy greens is healthy for you! Leafy greens, especially the dark green ones, are packed with phytonutrients, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. To get you more in the mood to eat leafy greens, here are some cool facts about them.
WHAT IS THE ARIZONA LEAFY GREENS MARKETING AGREEMENT?
Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (Arizona LGMA) provides rigorous, science-based food safety audits to the Arizona produce industry and is managed by the Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee. Arizona is the second-largest leafy green producer in the United States. Arizona Leafy Greens members represent 98% of leafy green products grown in Arizona.
Sources for the facts: Arizona Farm Bureau, Arizona Department of Agriculture, Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, USDA-NASS, Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association, and our Arizona leafy greens farmers.