Arizona Leafy Greens Week marks start of season
In recognition of the bountiful harvest generated by Arizona's abundant winter lettuce industry that just got underway, Gov. Jan Brewer has proclaimed Nov. 11-17 Arizona Leafy Greens Week.
The week officially kicks off the state's leafy greens season, which will also be promoted in a partnership with Bashas' Family of Stores — the family-owned grocer that operates Food City, AJ's Fine Foods, and both Bashas' and Bashas' Diné supermarkets.
“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 C.R. Waters, a Yuma-area vegetable grower who chairs the Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee.
As the top producer of leafy greens during the winter months, Arizona's leafy greens industry employs more than 40,000 workers and generates an estimated $1 billion in financial impact 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, primarily Yuma County.
“As Arizona's hometown grocer, we have a vested interest in sourcing food, products and services locally,” said Edward (“Trey”) Basha, Bashas' vice president of operations. “We're always looking for ways to celebrate and promote what's available right here in our own backyard. Locally-grown leafy greens are delivered within four hours or less from the farm to our distribution center, and in most cases picked only days before arriving in our stores.”
Arizona Leafy Greens graphics will be displayed throughout the grocer's more than 120 stores in the state, and through recipes and promotions announced on the Arizona Leafy Greens Facebook site.
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 the state 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,” Waters said.
More information is available at www.arizonaleafygreens.org.