The venue change is part of an expanded partnership between Yuma Visitors Bureau and the University of Arizona, explained YVB Executive Director Linda Morgan and YAC Director Dr. Kurt Nolte.
"Holding Lettuce Days in the middle of a real farm will make it even more authentic and unique," Morgan said. "We are excited about the new interactive experiences we can offer on site and are delighted to forge a stronger partnership with our friends at UA."
"With ongoing riverfront and downtown development, Lettuce Days was outgrowing its location at the Quartermaster Depot," Morgan said. "I reached out to Kurt, and the more we talked, the more excited we both got about all the fun things we could do there, from farm equipment demonstrations to hay rides, to a petting zoo with farm animals."
There are still lots of details to be worked out, but Nolte said his staff is already preparing to plant 5 to 10 acres of grass as a green footprint for the festival, with adjoining fields to be graded and prepped for parking. An outdoor kitchen for cooking demos is in the works, and Lettuce Days will be able to utilize existing buildings and infrastructure like walk-in coolers, labs and conference rooms.
The move is all about offering "more" to festivalgoers, Morgan said.
"We'll still have everything you always loved about Lettuce Days, like celebrity chefs and cooking demonstrations, great entertainment, the giant salad bar, and the farmers market," she said. "But we'll have more room, more parking, and more real 'farm stuff' to see and do because we're bringing folks to the farm instead of bringing the farm to town."
She pointed out that the actual move is only a bit more than seven miles, or less than 15 minutes by car.
"Folks who come to Lettuce Days will still be close to historic downtown, the beautiful riverfront and great shopping, dining and hotels," Morgan said. "But now Lettuce Days will also give them a taste of country down on the farm."
Chef Hosea Rosenberg of Boulder, Colo., will be the headline chef for the next Yuma Lettuce Days, set for Feb. 28 & March 1. An annual culinary celebration of Yuma’s role as the nation's winter vegetable capital, Lettuce Days won a Governor's Tourism Award as one of the state’s best special events.
Rosenberg, the winner of Bravo’s "Top Chef" competition in season five, just last month opened his new Blackbelly Market in Boulder, a venture that combines a new farm-focused restaurant and bar with his fine thriving catering business, and introduces a butcher shop, salumeria, deli counter and market selling house-made goodies to take home, all showcasing fresh ingredients.
That makes him a “natural” for Yuma, which during the winter months supplies more than 90 percent of North America’s leafy vegetables.
“I m thrilled to be cooking at Yuma Lettuce Days,” Rosenberg said. “It is extremely important to me as a chef to know where my food comes from. It is a way to connect not only to my customers, but to my suppliers as well.”
“It will be a treat to be surrounded by such a vital agricultural area and a place that feeds so many of our citizens,” he added. Yuma County ranks third in the nation for vegetable production, and its annual agricultural output of more than $3.2 billion accounts for more than a third of the total for the state of Arizona.
Originally from Taos, N.M., Rosenberg realized he wanted to become a chef while studying to be an astronomer. After graduating from the University of Colorado with a B.S. in engineering physics, he worked his way up through a variety of professional kitchens, landing his first chef position in 2001. In addition to his Top Chef accolades, he’s been named Best Chef of the Denver International Wine Festival, guest chef at the James Beard House, and seven-time winner of the Flatiron Chef Competition.
At Lettuce Days, Rosenberg will do two live cooking demonstrations each day – with some lucky audience members getting a chance to taste what he whips up on stage.