Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dirty Lettuce

Lettuce is one of my favorite things to grow, besides Swiss chard, and it can be relatively easy to start from seed. What isn't easy is keeping it clean. And then we have the bolting lettuce that wants to produce seed instead of leaves when the heat gets turned up.

This spring we've had an unusually high amount of rainfall and whether in raised beds or not, the lettuce seems to be a magnet for the dirt that splashes up from the splat of the raindrops into the soil.

Food safety is high on our list of priorities here at Hope Farms and we take it seriously. We use a hand-washing station and sanitize our harvesting utensils and containers with a sanitizing solution as necessary. Of course, we're not preparing for surgery, so there will be no masks or scrubs donned while picking lettuce but we do follow a basic procedure. Although we are not "certified" by any institution or organization we do follow the basic outline of the GAP's, or Good Agricultural Practices.

Often, at the market, you might hear me say "wash the produce really well," and I mean that not because there are unpronounceable chemicals on them but that the produce is probably dirty. As in dirt. Actual tiny grains of dirt and sand, in which it grows and gleans the nutrients it provides to us.

In the research that I've done, it has become fairly clear that sometimes the potential contamination of a product can occur during washing it. So that pre-washed lettuce that we've all come to see in the grocery stores? Not-so-much on the safe side. In fact there have been many recalls on bagged lettuces and spinach. Here's a list: (a list? we need a list? is this normal?)

Scary, yes?

No, I'm not trying to scare anyone, but just bring the level of awareness up to the playing field. Think about all the times that we eat each and every day - feeding our children, parents, friends, neighbors, and more - do we actually stop to contemplate where the food has come from? No? Why not? If yes, then how did you get to that point of awareness?

Not all farmers work hard to put safety at the forefront of their operations. Not all farmers are transparent and allow you to come to their farms. Not all farmers care about their customers. I encourage you, the consumer, to start asking questions about how the farm operates, whether or not you can visit (and no, you can't just 'show up' that would be rude!) and about food safety practices. There are, just like in other types of businesses out there, individuals who are in business for financial gain only. Don't get me wrong, authentic farmers should make a fair living wage, too. Get to know your farmer. 

A little dirt on your lettuce might be a good thing. We are, above all, a family here at Hope Farms - we're just like you. We welcome questions, inquiries, and visits by appointment. We aren't perfect, but we hold to the standard that if we wouldn't put it on our table, we won't ask you to put it on yours. 

Have a great day y'all!


Our Neck of the Woods said...

Great post! I've learned how lettuce can be a dirt magnet as well! I'm a little bit of a clean freak, so when I'm making a small salad I'll just wash and dry each leaf individually. May be a little overkill, but at least I know it's all clean!

Sheila Menendez said...

I do not mind the dirt so much as the little slugs - yuck!

But, their presence tells me that no chemicals are on the lettuce to kill them, so I wash and inspect each leaf, too - and simultaneously wash the dirt off...