The Farm Bureau of Imperial Valley, California estimates that more than two-thirds of the vegetables consumed in the United States during the winter months are grown in the Imperial Valley. “We basically provide the United States with 90 percent of their leafy green supply,” says Jack Vessey, a fourth generation producer of leafy greens in the Holtville. In the winter months, Imperial Valley farms produce romaine lettuce, spinach, spring mix leaf lettuces, green cabbage, red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other winter commodities.
Faced with dwindling water supply from the Colorado River and ongoing drought, his farm is conserving water as much as possible.
His company has been transitioning 40-inch beds of crops to wider 80-inch beds with solid set sprinklers to avoid water-intensive furrow (flood) irrigating.
“We’re in a gravity flow irrigation system and we order water in 12-hour increments,” Vessey explains, “So we’re trying to figure out how to manage that and part of the survivability of just being more efficient and running this business as economical as possible and as efficient as possible. The thing that we focus on most is irrigation management.”
Farming is a family business for Vessey and his neighbors, who want to preserve their farms in the face of drought and water shortage. “We have a lot of multi-generational families that have worked with our family for many years, and it’s a whole family atmosphere. I think we all take pride in doing the best we can to provide safe and clean vegetables to the United States. It’s not easy to do what we do and to see it from planting to harvest. Going out to see it at a store makes you just feel great about what you do, that you’re feeding the nation. At the end of the day, we’re doing good for everybody.