2015 Crop Report Shows Large Volume of Leafy Greens Grown Under Government Inspection

One of the important facts we want consumers to understand is how much of the lettuce, spinach, kale and cabbage they eat every day is being produced under a system of mandatory government inspection.

Since the creation of the LGMA in 2007, well over 400 billion servings of leafy greens have been produced under the stringent food safety program!  At least 90 percent of the leafy greens consumed in the US are grown in the states of California and Arizona.  Both of these states have an LGMA program in place and our certified handler-members produce nearly all– 98 percent — of the leafy greens grown in these two states.

So, consumers should have a high level of confidence that most of the leafy greens found in their salads, sandwiches and tacos have been grown under a system of science-based food safety practices and verified by government audit.

When looking at leafy greens production in the county of Monterey alone, it’s easy to see the huge amounts of leafy greens produced here.  Let’s just say – there’s a reason it’s called the “Nation’s Salad Bowl.”

A few weeks ago, Monterey County released its 2015 Crop Report. This annual document does a great job of summarizing information on the acres planted, volume and value of the crops grown in what is without a doubt one of the richest farming regions in the world.

When it comes to crop value, leaf lettuce is the number one commodity in the county, followed by strawberries and then, coming in third, is another leafy greens crop – head, or iceberg, lettuce.  Spinach came in as the 10th most valuable crop, while spring mix was 13th, cabbage was 17th and kale was 19th. The total value for all of these LGMA covered commodities was $1.8 billion in 2015.  This represents about 37 percent of the total value of all crops grown in Monterey County.

When it comes to acreage planted, leafy greens crops are produced on over 138,000 acres.  It’s interesting to look at the breakdown of the major leafy greens crops grown in the county with leaf lettuce gaining market share on head lettuce for several years.  The chart below shows the different types of leafy greens that make up the leaf lettuce category (iceberg is excluded).


According to a recent report by National Public Radio, per capita sales of fresh iceberg lettuce have fallen by half over the past 25 years, but there’s been a boom in bagged greens and salad kits.  This same report notes that Americans bought twice as many bags of packaged salads as heads of lettuce last year. And that over the past five years, sales of bagged lettuce have been increasing by 6.5 percent every year, while sales of intact lettuce heads have remained flat.

With all of this information, it’s easy to tell why Monterey County has the distinguished “Salad Bowl” title.  However, calling it the “Nation’s” Salad Bowl is somewhat limiting.  When it comes to exports, nearly 400 million pounds of the leafy greens crops grown in the county were exported to other countries.

Lettuce is by far the #1 exported crop in the county.  Most of these exports are shipped to Canada – which has a government-enforced requirement that all leafy greens imported into the country must be from certified LGMA members.  Other countries which import the most Monterey County agricultural products include Taiwan, Japan, Mexico and Hong Kong.

This report, put together by Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen and his staff is always an interesting read.  To view the full report click here.

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