This week kicks off Arizona’s Leafy Greens harvest season, with most of the growers in the state literally beginning to reap the rewards of the warm weather, and in perfect alignment with the annual Arizona Leafy Greens Month celebration throughout November.
“The warmer weather has definitely impacted the beginning of Arizona’s lettuce season,” said Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee Chairman Jerry Muldoon.
Typically lettuce production transitions from Salinas, Calif. to Yuma around the middle of November, but weather conditions also impact the schedule. The season usually lasts until the first part of March.
In recognition of the bountiful harvest generated by Arizona’s abundant lettuce industry, Governor Doug Ducey has proclaimed the month of November Arizona Leafy Greens Month, celebrating the kickoff of Arizona’s leafy greens season and shipments of Arizona-grown lettuce to destinations throughout the United States and Canada.
As the top producer of leafy greens during the winter months, Arizona’s leafy greens industry employs more than 20,000 and generates an estimated $1 billion in financial impacts to the state’s economy. Nearly 90 percent of the leafy greens lettuce consumed in the United States and Canada between the months of November through March is generated from Arizona.
To ensure that safe food handling practices are observed during this important transitional time and throughout the leafy greens harvesting season, the volunteer growers and shippers who are members of Arizona Leafy Greens Arizona Leafy Greens follow a strict food safety program. The rigorous protocol includes comprehensive planning, training, reporting, audits and regular inspections by USDA-certified auditors. This program has served as a model for requirements outlined in the federal government’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Rule.
The program is a “train the trainer” format, that instructs field safety personnel and harvest crew foremen on how to teach field workers to practice safe food handling techniques. The program consists of versatile materials such as tailgate flip charts, worksite posters, classroom presentations and videos. The full Food Safety Training Kit and its components have been recognized as finalists for Best New Food Safety Solution at United Fresh in 2012 and 2014. All of the components are available for purchase at www.arizonaleafygreens.org.