Saturday, July 12, 2014

Yuma: Lettuce celebrate veggies

Come January and you’re munching away on a green salad, you can thank Yuma farmers for it. That’s because, from November through March, Yuma is the lettuce capital of the world.  In fact, during those months, Yuma grows more leafy green vegetables than anywhere else in the United States.

Some 3,000 semis leave Yuma every day to deliver fresh vegetables around the country. Here’s another interesting statistic: Yuma has nine plants that do nothing but process lettuce and bagged salad mixes. At the height of production, they process more than two million pounds of lettuce every day. And that’s a lot of green.

Agribusinesses work quickly to get produce to hungry shoppers. Lettuce harvested in the morning can be in Phoenix, more than 200 miles away, in the afternoon. Or at the East Coast in three days.

Thank Yuma for winter salads
Yuma grows so much lettuce that it honors the leafy green vegetable and its contribution to the Yuma economy with a Lettuce Days celebration in March.

But lettuce isn’t the only crop grown in Yuma, which is surrounded by thousands of acres of flat fields. More than 175 food crops are grown here, according to the Yuma Visitors Center. Yuma also grows citrus foods, melons and wheat. Some of the durum wheat is exported to Italy where it’s made into pasta. Dates are another major crop, with the Yuma region now producing more premium Medjool dates than anywhere else in the world.

Yuma’s sunny climate year round and its rich soil make agriculture so diverse here. With 350 days of sun annually, Yuma has the longest growing season in the United States. Irrigation water from the Colorado River that runs through Yuma also plays an important part in the growing process.

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