June 20, 1988 12:00 PM

Okay, lettuce begin.

For the farmers of California’s Salinas Valley, it was a time to endive right in. Since 1982, the record for assembling the world’s biggest salad, bar none, had been held by a group in Belle Glade, Fla. The Young Farmers of King City, 150 miles south of San Francisco, had held the record before that, and they were determined to wrest it back—to win the Super Bowl of Salad Bowls. All they needed was a few lo-cal heroes.

The Floridians’ flora had weighed in at 28 tons, so on May 20, at the Salinas Valley Fair, 57 tons of lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, bell peppers, cabbages, carrots and other local produce were brought together by more than 50 farmers. Using forklifts, backhoes and muscle power, these hardy arrangers of roughage heaped vegetables five feet high into a 40-by-24-foot plywood “bowl.” After dousing the ingredients with 130 gallons of dressing, the King City farmers reclaimed the record.

Emerging from their salad daze, the farmers realized they had a king-size bed of lettuce all dressed up with nowhere to go. At 114,885 pounds, the salad theoretically was good for 450,000 servings. But since it was walked on by numerous young farmers and then allowed to sit in the sun for hours, 450,000 diners did not volunteer. Said rancher Cheryl Bailey: “We’ll just dump it on somebody’s ranch.”

If all this seems like a waste of good greens, well, the farmers of the Salinas Valley aren’t running short; the region produces around 75 percent of America’s lettuce. How are they doing financially? Let’s just say they make a very nice celery.

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