COVID-19 May Have Slowed Leafy Green Industry In Arizona, But Not For Long

By Kathy Ritchie
Published: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 - 1:29pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 - 1:30pm

Iceberg lettuce
John Boelts
Iceberg lettuce being harvested.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed how we do a lot of things, including what we eat. Many people would go out for lunch and dinner, and often meals come with a salad.

So what happened to Arizona’s leafy green industry? 

Arizona grows a lot of lettuce.

"Spring mix, cabbage, romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, arugula, Iceberg lettuce."

Julie Murphee is with the Arizona Farm Bureau. She says Arizona grows roughly 15 different leafy greens. It's a $2 billion a year industry that took a hit when COVID-19 struck. 

"There was an overall reduction in how much people eat because typically people eat more leafy greens, when they're eating out at restaurants and eating at institutions," said John Boeltz, a grower and co-manager of Desert Premium Farms in Yuma. 

And when times are tough like back in March and April, consumer behavior shifted. 

"People go buy canned goods, and go hunker down and see what's going to happen for a couple of weeks," said Boeltz.

But, things are picking up again. 

"So iceberg lettuce is still the lettuce, or the leafy green, that we plant the most of down here in Yuma and in Salinas."

Leafy greens are a lot like the TV show, "Project Runway:" One day you're in, the next you're out.

But iceberg lettuce is consistently popular, like a classic pair of jeans. Sure, romaine and spinach are favorites — for now; but iceberg rules.

"It's still the one that has more acres, just about than any other crop, sometimes as much, or more, than everything else combined," Boeltz said.

Take that, kale and arugula. 

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