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Serving: West

Desert harvest: first of two winter produce crops head to market

Green and red leaf lettuce varieties make for a colorful desert landscape.
Lettuce and melons planted in the desert around Labor Day being picked and prepared for market

It's winter produce season in the desert Southwest. Farmers on both sides of the Colorado River from Tacna, Ariz. to Imperial, Calif. are already harvesting the first of what is typically two winter-season crops. Melons, lettuce, and a handful of other crops are moving from field to cooler before heading to market.

Dome Valley, Ariz. is nestled along the Gila River east of Yuma, where about two dozen produce coolers are fired up, waiting to take in produce picked from the field.

Growers typically start planting produce by Labor Day after early harvest of cotton and other crops. Produce is king in the region stretching across Imperial County, Calif. and Yuma County, Ariz.

The large produce companies that spend their summers in the Salinas Valley of California have transitioned to the desert. Traffic in Yuma, Ariz. has picked up significantly as the company employees who transition with these companies have arrived.

Yuma is the winter destination of a large retirement-aged community from across North America. Estimates suggest that Yuma's winter population exceeds 200,000. This includes a year-round population of nearly 100,000 and the annual "snowbird" flight – a group of about 100,000 seniors and others who arrive to enjoy the sunny, 70-degree winter weather.

TAGS: Harvest
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