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Yuma is more than a one-crop county
Although lettuce may be the top crop in Yuma County, it's certainly not the only one that drives the economy.
Cotton, wheat, broccoli, melons and citrus are some of the other principal crops you'll find blanketing the area year after year.
But the recession has definitely taken a toll on farming, said Kurt Nolte, director of the Yuma County Cooperative Extension. Local crops are shipped all over the nation as well as places like Spain, Europe and Canada. When demand drops, Yuma growers feel the pinch, he said.
Despite recent hard times, Nolte said growers are hopeful the upcoming harvest will put them on the road to recovery.
Here's a look at how some of the major crops in Yuma County have fared in recent years.
Field Crops: Cotton, wheat and alfalfa
Cotton production in Yuma County doubled, perhaps even tripled, in the last year, Nolte said. Partly due to extreme weather events — flooding in India, for example — and decreased production in China, cotton prices jumped from 50 cents to $1.50 per pound, Nolte said.
“That's good for the grower,” said Nolte, although it will mean higher prices for consumers. About 23,000 acres of cotton are grown in Yuma, according to the latest figures from the Arizona Department of Agriculture.
Wheat prices are also up from about $3.50 per bushel to $7 or $8, Nolte said. Grown in the winter and harvested in the spring on about 40,000 acres, wheat is a vital crop in Yuma County.
Alfalfa, too, has increased in value, thanks to more production in the dairy industry, Nolte said. Yuma has about 35,000 acres of the crop, most of which goes to feeding dairy cattle.
Clyde Sharp farms about 2,400 acres in Roll. Over half of his farmland provides food for the cattle at McElhaney Cattle Co. in Wellton, he said.
Sharp's family began farming in the 1930s in Scottsdale. In 1986, Sharp moved his farm to Yuma County because he liked what he saw. Low rainfall doesn't interrupt cutting and the soil produces excellent dairy hay, Sharp said. Here, alfalfa can be grown year-round; winter hay produces a higher quality, but summer hay is good for beef cattle, he said.
“I anticipate alfalfa will be growing a long time in Yuma,” he said.
Vegetables: Broccoli, melons, spinach and cauliflower
Yuma County ranks No. 1 for wintertime vegetable production, but it's not just lettuce that makes up our veggies.
Yuma County has become the nation's primary source for winter broccoli, which consists of about 13,000 acres. Production has been relatively stable over the last few years, Nolte said.
“That's very true of cauliflower as well,” he said. Cauliflower is grown on about 7,000 acres.
Spinach growers were not only hit hard by the recession, the E. coli scare in 2006 hurt them as well. Although the outbreak was ultimately traced to crops grown in Northern California, Yuma County's production still suffered for years after.
“We're still in the midst of recovery from that outbreak,” Nolte said.
Melon production — predominantly cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon — are a pretty stable crop grown on about 10,500 acres in Yuma County. This area is the top producer of melons in Arizona, with most of the crop grown in the spring.
Seedless watermelons are currently the dominant variety with smaller “refrigerator-size” watermelons also gaining popularity, Nolte said.
Tree crops: Lemons and tangerines
Citrus has a long history in Yuma County, but far fewer trees dot the mesa compared with a decade ago. Other countries can grow it cheaper, and the U.S. hasn't been able to compete, Nolte said.
“Because the market is so bad a lot of folks have decided to no longer grow,” he said. Development has also shrunk the citrus acreage here.
Just as in years past, lemons are produced the most compared to other tree crops. Harvested in late August and early September, lemons account for about 12,000 acres. There are a few thousand acres of tangerines and tangelos, and grapefruit has dwindled to about 350 acres.
Still a concern to citrus growers is a deadly citrus greening disease that has had a devastating impact elsewhere.
Last year's federal quarantine to prevent the spread of Asian citrus psyllid nearly crippled Sunset Nursery, a family-owned wholesale citrus nursery, said Mark Loghry, co-owner. Located on about 60 acres, the nursery sells a variety of lemons, limes, grapefruit, tangelos and oranges.
This year they hope to regain a little of what they lost. “We'll be selling again in October,” he said.
Broccoli cole slaw
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 (3 ounce) package chicken-flavored ramen noodles, crushed, seasoning packet reserved
1 large head fresh broccoli, diced
2 carrots, grated
2 bunches green onions, chopped
1 cup sunflower seeds
In a small bowl combine oil, vinegar, sugar and the seasoning packet from the ramen noodles. Mix well and refrigerate at least one hour before serving, or overnight.
In a large bowl combine broccoli, carrots, green onions and sunflower seeds. Crush ramen noodles and stir in. Pour dressing over salad about 10 minutes before serving.
Courtesy of allrecipes.com
1 cup sugar
1 (3 ounce) package lime flavor gelatin
2 cups boiling water, divided
1 cup cold water, divided
1 (3 ounce) package strawberry flavor gelatin
3 tablespoons miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 cups thawed whipped topping
Mix 1/3 cup sugar and lime gelatin mix in medium bowl. Add 1 cup boiling water; stir 2 min., until completely dissolved. Add enough ice to 1/2 cup cold water to measure 3/4 cup. Add to lime gelatin; stir until ice is completely melted. Refrigerate 25 min.
Meanwhile, repeat Step 1 using strawberry gelatin mix and omitting the refrigeration step. Pour into 16 (3-oz.) paper cups. Freeze 20 min. Stir 1/2 tsp. chocolate chips into gelatin in each cup.
Beat cream cheese and remaining sugar with mixer in medium bowl until well blended. Stir in whipped topping; spread over gelatin in cups.
Pour lime gelatin over cream cheese mixture. Insert wooden pop stick into gelatin in center of each cup. Freeze 3 hours or until firm. Remove pops from cups just before serving.
Courtesy of allrecipes.com
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or more if needed
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste
1/4 cup white wine
2 large lemon, juiced
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup drained capers
1 large lemon, cut into wedges
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Season the chicken breasts with salt, then gently press into the flour to coat; shake off the excess flour. Arrange the chicken in the skillet. Cook until golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes on each side. Add the white wine and lemon juice. Continue cooking until the chicken breasts are no longer pink in the center and the cooking liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 7 minutes more. Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Remove the skillet from heat and stir butter into the sauce until melted. Pour sauce over the chicken breasts and garnish with capers and lemon wedges.
Courtesy of allrecipes.com