US: Where does our lettuce really come from?

The U.S. is the second-largest user of lettuce after only China, but when we look at lettuce consumption and production as an example, we can see why vertical indoor farming can be such a great way to supplement what we eat.

Americans consume on average, 30 pounds of lettuce each per year. That’s because lettuce is healthy, used in a variety of ways, and well, it just plain tastes good to a LOT of consumers both here in America and almost everywhere else. It’s nutritious, low in calories, generally healthy, and has a lot of varieties that can be consumed in a number of salads and other dishes. 

So let’s say that 90+% of the U.S. lettuce production is in California and Arizona, but we know that those two states only account for a small percentage of the U.S. population. How does the rest of America get their lettuce? The answer for most folks is by truck. So, the lettuce, like many vegetables in the U.S., is grown in California and shipped across the country but that transportation comes with its own set of challenges and increasing costs. For example, we read all the time about shortages of qualified truck drivers, the increasing cost of fuel that we can all see, the increase in salaries due to the worker shortage, and so on. 

Growing vertically in a controlled environment will help to lessen the chances for something to be introduced into the crop that isn’t wanted. Think about the E.coli scares that we have seen in the past several years. While diseases can be introduced into a crop at the seed level and so indoor farming is not 100% a safeguard against something like E.coli, it does help to mitigate many of the factors that might influence such a malady.

Vertical farming then can play a significant role in where our lettuce or other vegetables or plants come from both now and well into the future. By growing products close to the source of consumption, the product is fresher, should theoretically be cheaper over time, and should taste better with much less spoilage. As an added bonus, the lettuce can be grown year-round without herbicides and pesticides so it actually can be a cleaner form of plant than even something termed “organic.”

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