January 9, 2018

Let's Talk About our Food System

Let's Talk About our Food System

Farm News

As summer turned to fall, our lettuce seed was tucked into soil in a plastic tray under a greenhouse. The tiny seeds germinated. For 35 days, they grew until their roots were confined by the limited soil in the transplant tray.
They graduated from the greenhouse and were tucked into a neatly prepared field where the little plants had room to grow. Water rained down on them from sprinklers, and as they grew, the colors of the red leaf, green leaf and Green Romaine lettuces covered the dark soil with a rainbow of color in the field.

As their day came to be harvested, consumers heard that E.coli was in the Romaine supply. The demand for my little gems of Green Romaine lettuce slumped, but not the other lettuce that shared the exact same life as the Green Romaine. Individuals with legitimate concerns called our customer service team to ask about the Romaine – and why wouldn’t you call to ask? That is the whole point of Farm Fresh To You − to give you a direct connection to the land that feeds you. And why would you knowingly add any risk to your family by eating something that may cause harm?

The reality is that something is going on, but pinning the blame broadly on Green Romaine is irresponsible. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not identified what food likely caused this foodborne illness. No public agency has contacted any Romaine lettuce grower, shipper or processor and requested that they either stop shipping or recall product already in the marketplace. Yet Consumer Reports mass warns consumers to not eat any Romaine lettuce. This warning lacked a basic understanding that lettuce is a highly perishable product with limited shelf life, vast growing regions, and different growing, processing and handling practices. If I were Romaine lettuce, I would get a discrimination case set up…

Food safety is of paramount importance to our farm, and we have no reason to believe that any of our lettuce is anything but safe and healthy to eat. While I cannot tell you exactly what is going on, I can tell you that there is not a general problem with all Green Romaine lettuce – there is however a general problem with our food system, and food safety scares like this one emphasize the importance of our local food system and why it is so important to know where your food comes and who grew it so that you can trust that it is safe for you and your family.

I have three young children, ages 8, 5 and 2, and we will be eating the Green Romaine lettuce that our farm grew. You will notice that we have elected to not include Green Romaine lettuce in any of the main line boxes. It pains me a little to bend to the forces of national news, but the truth is that peace of mind is also something that we have an obligation to provide to our customers. Eventually, this Green Romaine scare will blow over, and we may learn that there was some Green Romaine that had a legitimate problem. We may learn it was actually the Caesar Salad dressing used on Green Romaine. We may find out it had nothing to do with Green Romaine at all. I can’t tell you the outcome, but I can tell you that all of our Green Romaine, as well as the Green Leaf and Red Leaf Lettuce, are safe and healthy to eat. I know this because I grew them and will be feeding them to my kids all winter.