Every year at the middle to end of March most lettuce and leafy green growers, who have been farming in the southern California desert and Yuma, AZ during the winter, head 600 miles north back to the Salinas Valley Region to begin the Spring/Summer season. Typically over the next few weeks, lettuces, leafy greens, salad mixes, and even many core vegetables can easily find themselves in short and variable supply as the season transitions to a new growing area. Inclement weather often impacts quality and supply in the early part of the northern growing season as well. Typically towards the middle of May, the markets begin to open up again as the transition settles. About 85 percent of the country’s leafy green vegetables are grown in the Salinas and Central Valley in the Spring, Summer and Fall months.
The good news is that the greens benefit from the cooler northern temperatures, giving the product a new life of freshness and crispness, while desert greens look somewhat tired and availability thins as their season is coming to and end. The challenge, however, is getting supplies up to speed during this transition. With cooler nights and much more rainfall than in the desert, the lettuce in Salinas tends to grow a little slower than we usually hope for. This is all pretty standard fare for this time of year; it’s just that when this period actually arrives, we all realize that even though we must flow with nature and her time frames, our customers and shoppers still want an uninterrupted and continuous flow of product.
While harvesting the first crops from the northern region often pose a few problems, planting during this time can create some issues down the road as well. If the weather is wet for a few days and planting can’t occur, then it’s possible that 6 weeks to a couple of months later (even if the weather seems perfect), there may again be product gaps because the continuous flow of product is not there as a result of planting interruptions. If a freeze occurs during the winter months crop growth can be affected and young plantings lost. This can further extend our usual start date by weeks or longer.
It takes a very special and incredibly patient and understanding person to farm. Chances are that if you have any type of control issues, then farming is really not for you. There are many aspects of our life that we can affect and control… but weather is not one of them. Here’s hoping for the perfect Spring season in Salinas!
…and by the way, if you Click Here or on the Transition Time sign image above you will be taken to our website where you can download a very nice POS sign that can be displayed in your department. I would recommend taking this file somewhere to get it professionally printed and laminated to post in your produce area. The sign provides a brief explanation for your customers about how the transition affects the availability of some of their favorite items.