November marks beginning of Arizona-grown lettuce shipments
Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee and Safeway stores are coming together to celebrate the advent of Arizona’s lettuce harvest throughout the month of November, marked by a gubernatorial proclamation and messages about the impact that leafy greens vegetables have on our state’s economy.
“Those who are embedded in Arizona’s lettuce industry realize the importance of our home-grown produce, but many of our state’s residents are largely unaware of the impact of leafy greens in Arizona,” said Safeway Arizona President Dan Valenzuela. “By partnering with Arizona Leafy Greens we are reinforcing our commitment to boosting Arizona-grown products and educating our shoppers on the importance of this commodity to our state,” he added.
In recognition of the bountiful harvest generated by Arizona’s abundant lettuce industry, Governor Jan Brewer has proclaimed the month of November Arizona Leafy Greens Month. The month celebrates the kick off of Arizona’s leafy greens season, with abundant growth, harvest and shipments of Arizona-grown lettuce throughout the United States and Canada. The season generally commences around mid-November and goes through March.
“This is an ideal time to reflect on the fertile ground that Arizona offers, the increased focus on healthy eating, the continued demand for local leafy greens, and the safe practices that help this industry thrive in Arizona,” said Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee Chair Arnott Duncan.
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.
Arizona Leafy Greens graphics will be displayed throughout Safeway’s 115 Arizona stores, and through recipes and promotions announced on the Arizona Leafy Greens Facebook site.
Although product labels may indicate commodities were shipped from other places, in fact most of the leafy greens products consumed from mid-November through mid-March are grown and harvested in Arizona. Because of the proprietary nature of the grower/shipper relationship, the shipper oversees all marketing and selling of the items, and procures its lettuces from growers in Arizona. Following Arizona’s leafy greens season most of the product is grown in Salinas, Calif.
Members of the Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee, a volunteer consortium comprised of 96 percent of Arizona’s shippers and growers, work collaboratively to ensure uniform safe food handling practices are employed throughout the industry. The group represents various leafy greens products grown in Arizona, demonstrating their commitment to maintain safety of lettuces grown in Arizona from field to fork.
The members of Arizona Leafy Greens agree to a rigorous set of standards and practices. Shippers and growers are subject to regular inspections by USDA certified auditors. The Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee can impose sanctions on those who are out of compliance.
“It’s important to protect this industry not only because of what it contributes to Arizona’s economy, but because it’s what we’re feeding our own families,” Duncan said.
More information is available at www.arizonaleafygreens.org.
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