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organicgirl Farm Tour

A group from Earl’s Organic had the privilege of taking a tour of some of the organicgirl fields and the packing plant.  organicgirl is based out of the Salinas Valley but they also grow throughout Northern California all year long and additionally in Yuma, Arizona during the winter months.  The idea to grow premium greens, using quality organic and sustainable practices was was conceived in 2005 and in 2007 organicgirl salad mixes officially hit the stores.

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The first fields we visited were growing baby spinach and spring salad mixed lettuces.  Everyone was required to wear hairnets on the field.  We were lucky enough to be there during harvest time.  A crew of about 10-12 people do all the harvesting for this particular field.  A machine goes slowly down the row and cuts the spinach automatically. The spinach pours out of the back of the machine where a group of workers work fast and efficiently to pack it into crates. The crates are then moved onto a truck driving parallel to the machine and stacked in high rows. The synchronicity and rhythm of the packing was amazing to watch.

Robert and Brian from organicgirl

The method of harvesting lettuce and spinach has evolved over the years.  Twenty years ago it was all harvested by hand. Robert, Earl’s head of purchasing, shows us how he used to harvest lettuce when he worked on a farm over 30 years ago. 

The second farm we visited was growing romaine lettuce and being picked and packed only for the romaine lettuce hearts.  A row of 5-7 workers stood behind a machine in the middle of the field bending over to cut a head of lettuce with a very sharp knife and then strip off the outer leaves until only the heart remained. The lettuce was then washed there on the field and then packed in plastic bags by another worker walking behind the truck. The packaged lettuce was then moved onto the truck where another group of workers packed the lettuce into boxes. The workers start harvesting as early as 6am during the summer because of the heat and work 10 hour shifts which include breaks.  I don’t think there was one of us in the group that could imagine even making it through one day of bending up and down for 10 hours.

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Our last stop was the packing plant in Salinas.  Food safety is of the upmost concern and everyone wore hairnets, helmets, plastic glasses, smocks and gloves inside the cold 36 degree packing plant.  All organicgirl is triple washed so you don’t have to wash it at home.  We toured the plant and watched how the different varieties of lettuce are sorted, washed, and packed in 100% recycled plastic containers. The entire experience was impressive, especially the amount of innovation over the years where everything has become so efficient and mechanized.  To see humans and machines working together in unison has increased our appreciation for the labor that goes into harvesting our food.  0rganicgirl is an incredible company and we are proud to be a long time partner.

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