Food Bullying Podcast

The science & food safety of salads: Episode 86


Growing greens and delivering them safely to your plate is more complex than you might believe. Did you know that there are over 400 family farms behind the big brands of lettuce you see in your grocery store? Dan Sutton is general manager of the Pismo-Oceano Vegetable Exchange (POVE), a farmer-owned cooperative near San Luis Obispo, CA, and  joins Nicole & Michele to help you get to know the people behind your greens.

Most people think that produce items like lettuce and leafy greens are farmed by corporations – especially when it comes to the leafy greens. that are found in retail grocery stores. “My company is a cooperative made up of five farming families, all of Japanese descent, who have banned together to sell their products. There are stories like this throughout the leafy greens industry” says Dan. 

“It’s important for dietitians to clear up this ‘corporate ag’ image so that consumers understand that the people growing their fresh leafy greens are moms, dads, grandfathers and grandmothers who care a great deal about the quality, safety and nutrition of these foods because we feed them to our own kids along with millions of families across the country. We take this responsibility very seriously. And I think knowing this is something very important to people.”

POVE farms several different varieties of leafy greens and specialty Asian vegetables. Dan is also a member and past chairman of the Board of an organization called the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which is a program that exists to make lettuce and leafy green safer by enforcing a set of food safety practices that take place on lettuce farms. He knows salads, loves salads, and is committed to gettin people trained to be your salad is safe. 

He believes food bullying is negatively effecting his business because there a big knowledge gap when it comes to people understanding where their food comes from. “The leafy greens industry is a tough industry to understand to begin with. Growing safe, healthy, fresh high quality lettuce is challenging and we face all kinds of obstacles from weather to labor and food safety. I don’t think people have any idea how difficult that is and what measures we take out in the field to make sure food is safe. For example, most people don’t know that we have very stringent rules for hygiene that are required under the LGMA food safety program and, by law, in the state of California. Anyone who enters our fields must wear a hair net, we always have bathrooms and hand-washing facilities near the fields and people are trained regularly to follow all food safety precautions. This is just one example of something that most people have no idea about when it comes to the food on their dinner table.”

This vegetable grower also wants you to know he believes one of most important factors in farming leafy greens are POVE’s workers. “Most people don’t understand the relationships that farmers often have with their workers. They really can be a part of our own families. We see their kids grow up, many of them work for us for generations. They are just such a big part of our operations and I think the perception is that farmers don’t treat their workers very well. Most people don’t understand how critical that workers are to our every day operations and how important they are to us.”

Learn more across all social channels by following Lettuce Info, visit or the POVE co-op at

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