Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Touring the Salinas Valley's flooded fields, farm facilities

Today I'm heading home after working Tuesday in the Salinas Valley, where I looked at impacts from the recent torrential storms, visited a leafy greens processing facility and talked with produce industry insiders.

In the photos, from the top: An artichoke field near Castroville is flooded; Joe Pezzini, president of Castroville-based Ocean Mist Farms, stands near a field that's been prepared for planting spinach; workers in Ocean Mist's processing facility box and wash spinach that's been shipped in from the operation's fields in Southern California; and Jim Bogart, president and general counsel of the Grower-Shipper Association, stands outside the organization's headquarters in Salinas.

The main project I'm working on involves the 10-year anniversary of the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which was hastily formed by industry folks after the 2006 E. coli outbreak essentially shut down spinach sales in the U.S. The LGMA's voluntary yet nearly universally followed food safety guidelines are now a model as the federal government implements the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Safety Rule.

I'll also be doing a shorter, more immediate story on results of a grower survey the GSA published this week and checking for any agricultural damage from the past week's storms. In the Salinas Valley, the fields that weren't under water as a result of the storms were a muddy mess; you couldn't really get into the cauliflower and artichoke fields to pick them.

"We'll have to throw away all these artichokes, sure," Pezzini said of the flooded field shown in the first photo.

"We really need a few days to dry out," he said.

For these stories, check soon, and look for my LGMA centerpiece story in the coming weeks.

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