Grown Here at Home: How Four Oaks Farms in Franklin County picks and ships their lettuce

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FRANKLIN CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Believe it or not, there is such a thing as living lettuce. If you go to the produce section of your grocery store, you'll be able to find it.

At Four Oaks Farms in Franklin County there's a process in making sure you get the freshest lettuce possible.

First there's a food safety requirement that must be met.
Four Oaks Farms is GAP certified.

“GAP stands for Good Agricultural Practices. It's a process born out of the food safety modernization act that was passed in 2012. GAP requires that we follow a set process and procedure for handling, storing, and treating our lettuce throughout its life. The whole jest of it is to maintain the healthy nature of the lettuce and prevent, minimize any type of foodborne diseases being transferred to the plant that can cause problems that you've heard of in the past with leafy greens coming out of different farms from time to time,” explained Jerry Conner of Four Oaks Farms.

When picking the lettuce, timing is important.

“Between the time it's picked and it's brought in here it's immediately packed. In other words we don't let it sit around for hours or minutes, or anything like that. We immediately try to get it into the cooler as fast as possible. The picker goes out and they pull the heads out of the channels. They clean it. There's always some debris around the bottom,” said Joyce Conner of Four Oaks Farms.

“Our lettuce is picked with a certain amount of roots remaining on the base of the plant, so it's technically alive,” Jerry said.

“That root will keep that lettuce fresh,” said Joyce.

Once the lettuce is picked. It's time for it to be packed.

“We have boxes ready to go and we line each and every box with a clean sheet of plastic. That keeps the lettuce off the inside of the cardboard, because you get condensation when you put that in the cooler. So that keeps the moisture in the lettuce and the moisture off the box,” explained Joyce.

The lettuce is inspected and then it's placed in the box.
Once it's all packed up. The box is placed in the cooler before it's brought to the markets. And since the lettuce is living when it comes to you, here's a tip to make it last longer in your fridge.

“They can take that head of lettuce and take it home and wrap wet paper towels around the end of it and keep that lettuce fresh for a longer period of time,” said Joyce.