The month of November kicks off Arizona’s leafy greens harvest season, a time of year when growers throughout the state begin reaping the rewards of the region’s warm and sunny climate. In recognition of the bountiful harvest generated by Arizona’s abundant lettuce industry, Gov. Doug Ducey has proclaimed November as “Arizona Leafy Greens Month.”
During the months of November through April, Arizona’s lettuce industry grows, harvests and ships 15 varieties of leafy greens to destinations throughout the United States and Canada. The production equates to an estimated 130 million servings of leafy greens each day for consumers. Arizona’s annual lettuce harvest isn’t just good for consumers; it also contributes to a healthy economy, employing nearly 27,000 and generating an estimated $2 billion in financial impacts to the state’s economy each year.
“As growers, we are excited to launch our season and are proud to ensure that our produce is grown with the highest food safety standards,” said C.R. Waters, chairman of the Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee. “Being the country’s top producer of this important food source is a huge responsibility that Arizona’s leafy greens industry takes seriously.”
The state’s lettuce industry established the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (Arizona LGMA), a rigorous, science-based food safety protocol that includes comprehensive planning, implementation, training, reporting, and announced and unannounced inspections by United States Department of Agriculture certified auditors.
As the 2019-2020 harvest season gets underway, the most comprehensive and exhaustive water metric guidelines are being implemented by the Arizona leafy greens industry – setting unparalleled and substantiated regulations to address all areas of growing, harvesting, storing, packaging and shipping leafy greens. The goal: to deliver the safest produce for consumers to enjoy with their families without worry.
Updated Arizona LGMA metrics are the result of workshops and training sessions led by the Arizona LGMA Technical Assistant, Vicki Scott and other Food Safety specialists and are widely believed to be the most comprehensive and extensive in the industry.
“The Arizona LGMA Technical subcommittee spent countless hours going over and reviewing every aspect of the water standards,” said Teressa Lopez administrator for the Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee. “It’s an ongoing effort and Arizona farms are continuing a proud heritage of growing and distributing safe leafy greens to customers throughout the U.S.”
California’s leafy greens industry adopted similar water metric guidelines last month and Arizona’s guidelines built upon the collaboration between the two states, along with leading industry researchers and institutions.
In addition, recently the Arizona LGMA adopted a pilot “Gold Star” Harvester Program. Launching in fall 2019, the Gold Star Program is an opportunity to elevate and recognize best practices in producing and harvesting leafy greens. Bronze, Silver and Gold Star achievement levels will be measured and assessed to address compliance with LGMA standards for all harvest crews working within the system and to encourage ever-increasing levels of food safety performance through training in the industry.
The Arizona LGMA, a consortium of shippers of Arizona leafy greens, continue put in place strict food safety best practices to ensure the integrity of leafy greens grown, harvested and shipped from Arizona. The program aims to diffuse potential issues through an intricate system of checks and balances and is administered b