{Good Eats} Meet Mark ~ Dole Part 1

Let me tell you a little story.  A story about a guy.

A guy who is just like me, or my husband, or you. He has a family, and a toddler, and a wife with another baby on the way.

He is a real person, who lives on a farm.

A farm that his grandfather, and his father, and now he lives on.

He wakes up at 2:00am to fix a busted sprinkler line (and I’m sure his wife hopes he’ll feed a baby or change a diaper now and then too!).

He is a farmer, or a “Grower” as I recently learned. And he is one of 30 local farmers that work with Dole and supply lettuce & vegetables that end up on our produce shelves.

Can I say that part again. He is a very REAL PERSON just like you and me.

His name is Mark.

Mark shared with us the process of how produce gets to our markets, from farms such as his.

That back story ~ I was recently invited on a trip to Monterey with Dole, and it was eye opening, in the very best way. It’s not like any of us beleive our lettuce grows in a warehouse or science lab somewhere (you don’t do you? Please tell me you don’t…). But to actually SEE it, and to SEE the process, to HEAR from an actual grower, to WATCH a harvester, and to KNOW that it would be on a produce shelf in a matter of days….well that just made it all very REAL and REASSURING.

Even though I’m only a few (7 hours) away from this beautiful area of California, I had no idea that there was an area known as the “Salad Bowl”. It’s called this because of the very intense heat during the day, and because the temperature drops to such extreme cool conditions at night due to the proximity to the ocean.

There are only a handful of places in the WORLD that have these same conditions. I was shocked that one of them was relatively out my back door.

This is a giant field of iceberg lettuce. For us to be near it we needed to wear lovely rubber gloves (fun for taking photos), and super crazy attractive hair nets (fun for being IN said photos).  But all the while also nice to know that anyone in the fields, and near the produce was doing the same. Maggy looked stellar if I do say so!

Have you ever seen iceberg lettuce harvested?  Me neither.

Here ya go…

First it’s cut out of the ground….

Then all of THIS happens…it gets cleaned up and trimmed and placed directly in the bag you buy it in.

Do you see that hand-off in the last row?  And the woman that is twisting the bag and placing it in the box?

The box that your grocer will receive?

Those are the only 2 people that will touch the iceberg lettuce (short of your produce person putting in on the shelf).

That’s it.

Harvested from the field, a short stop in a refrigeration facility for distribution, and then in YOUR MARKET and YOUR HANDS.

While this harvesting team continues through the field, those boxes on back continue to stack up.  Then along comes this handy dandy guy…

And a transfer is soon made.

Load it up!

And off it goes to the refrigeration facility.

Honestly that whole process what just so cool to me.  And you know something else? That entire harvesting team could not have been any nicer!  The superintendents have often been a part of a harvesting team for 30-40 years, and all of them had to start as a harvester themselves.  I love that hard work is rewarded and that everyone is committed and likes their job.  Do you know something else?  We heard that the people working were so excited about us all coming that their spouses who weren’t on the harvesting team wanted to be there too!  How nice is that!

I have so much more that I want to share with you about this trip.  it really was such an inspiring and eye opening trip for me. So stay tuned!

And if you’re a little impatient (‘cuz I kind of am…) there some amazing bloggers on this trip who may post as well (many of them FAVORITE blogger friends of mine, and others I was so glad to finally meet!)  So check out their sites too…

Steamy Kitchen
Romy Raves
Cheeky Kitchen
Lunch Box Bunch (Kathy has a great 3 part series on the trip!)
Fit Celeb
Food for My Family
Tidy Mom
Three Many Cooks
Dine and Dish
Smith Bites

Want to know a little more about Dole Salad Guide? Try following them here…

Twitter: @DoleSaladGuide and @DoleNutrition
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(Disclosure: I was invited by Dole to tour some of their produce fields in Monterey  CA and to learn more about their products. I was a guest of Dole, but am under no obligation to post or review anything. I’m sharing my trip with you because I want to and I only WISH that everyone could see everything that I did!  Such a cool earning experience and wonderful company!)