Sunday, February 26, 2017

Field to Feast

Field near Yuma
Yuma, AZ advertises itself as the sunniest city in the US.  It is probably true, but I wouldn’t
want to live there in the summer with 3 digit weather in the teens, or more.  Winter is great for tourism and also for agriculture.  I will get to the agriculture in a bit.  I wanted to start with the tourism.  There is a surprising number of things to do in Yuma.  On each trip we make through Yuma on our way back to Southern California we have partaken of the tourism bit.

I don’t know how much Roger covered on our first few trips but I know he didn’t cover the trip we made last fall.  With Betty’s guidance we made the short trip into Algodones, Mexico. And guess what we did? Yup we bought our medicines and paid about half of what we would have paid in the U.S.  We also bought a few tourist items and ate a delicious lunch there.

On our trip to take possession of the Forza we took a Field to Feast tour.  Yuma is the vegetable and lettuce capital of the U.S. in winter with the Salinas Valley in California being the same in the summer. Yuma takes advantage of its agricultural title by offering the Field to Feast tour of research fields that are part of the University of Arizona and the culinary skills of the students at the local community college.

Betty washing hands & doning gloves & hair net

First we had an excellent lecture by a University of Arizona professor that does animal poop research at the agricultural facility. Yup, you read it correctly, poop research. She referred to the lessons learned from the well known food borne illness case at Chipotle Grill. Now field workers must go through a highly regulated process of hand washing, gloving, donning disposable shoe covers, masks, hair nets and beard nets. The process is similar to what we used to do in order to perform office medical procedures. The buses transporting the migrant workers tow trailers with port-a-potties and washing stations.If animal poop is found then the UA professor is called to investigate and regulations require that no vegetable is picked within a five foot radius of the poop.  The professor found that the best way to sterilize the vegetables is with UV radiation, which Yuma gets plenty of.  Unfortunately that knowledge hasn’t made it into the regulations yet.  Our food is not irradiated because that is a highly unpopular procedure so instead food is wasted.  Well they do plow it under immediately to help fertilize the next crops.  A lot of money goes into scaring away any wild animals, including birds.  People are also not allowed anywhere near the fields.

After the lecture we road a farm worker’s truck over to the research field and picked vegetables for our lunch.  We also got to pick some for ourselves, but as we were travelling into California the next day we gave ours to Betty.  If you were city raised kids like Roger & myself you have no clue what most vegetables look like in the field so I am including pictures with the accompanying signs. However, I still don't think I could recognize lettuce versus Kale versus other vegetables.

Workers harvesting lettuce
After the field experience they took us on a narrated bus tour of the fields which finished at the community college.  The field laborers work very fast. For example with celery, they do everything from picking the celery, cutting off the inedible parts, putting them into the bags you buy them in, boxing them and putting the boxes on a truck to be hauled to market.

Solar panels cover the parking lot

The lunch was held at the community college where solar panels, like many other places in Yuma, covered the parking lot.  The lunch was very good, made, of course, with just picked vegetables.  I would love some of the recipes they used or concocted.

The next day we headed back into California and into a heavy rainstorm which we avoided until we got to Indio.  The back road from I 8 to Indio along the Salton Sea travelled through the Imperial Valley where California’s winter crops are grown.  It was a nice drive until we hit the rain.  But guess what?  There wasn’t any leak.  We lived in our “travel rig” until our new 5th wheel arrived.  But that is food for another story.

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