Following the Sun – Moving to Arizona
by Loree Dowse | December 2017
A couple of weekends ago, our Fresh Leaf Farms facility just south of Salinas made its annual migration to Yuma, Arizona for the winter growing season of our leafy green products. Unlike a flock of birds heading south for the winter, moving our equipment, employees and growing operations is a bit more complicated than taking to the skies and following the sun. “The Transition,” as we call it, is no small feat that requires months of planning, logistics, engineering, and trucks. Lots and lots of trucks.
The move begins at 4:00 am on Friday morning. Crews will take apart the equipment in our plant, bolt by bolt, and load everything onto flatbed trucks, approximately 42 of them. Break down and loading finishes around noon depending on the amount of equipment being moved. The crews hop onto planes while the trucks make the 12- to 13-hour drive south, and will be waiting outside our Priority Cooling plant in Yuma early Saturday morning. The teams then start unloading the equipment and placing it into the plant for assembly, which is usually finished by the end of day on Sunday, ready to start production again on Monday. Whew!
Moving the equipment from one place to another is only part of the equation, of course. Our growing operations have already begun in Yuma, with preparation and planting of the fields starting in late August for all of our whole leaf products, and late September for Arcadian Harvest. We also begin shipping product from Salinas to the Yuma plant to build inventory and ensure that the transition is seamless in the eyes of our customers.
And let’s not forget the people. Each year, about 40 employees relocate with us to Yuma. Most of the employees who move have a key position at Fresh Leaf Farms, however there are others who make the transition as well. It can be tough for these folks to leave their homes and families here in Salinas for 5 months at a stretch and we are so grateful for their dedication. Most people don’t realize the sacrifices being made (like being away from family at Thanksgiving and sometimes Easter) to supply leafy greens to the country all year long!
Meanwhile, back in Salinas, our fields get a break from planting and will lay dormant for a couple of months. We do harvest a few crops year-round in Salinas, like Broccolini®, broccoli and cauliflower, but all the lettuces head south with the Snowbirds. We start planting our lettuces again in January for harvesting in April. That’s when our leafy greens operations will once again make the move back up from the desert, and it all begins again. Given Mother Nature’s cooperation, of course.
Many people – including even those of us in the produce industry – sometimes take for granted how this amazing food system works and the great pains it takes to bring fresh food to our restaurants, hospitals, and schools. Thank you, Fresh Leaf Farms team!