McClendon's Select Snubs Local Growers With Summer Produce Blog

carrots soapy.jpg
Do Phoenix carrots taste soapy in summer? Not everyone thinks so.
Local growers like those you find vending at the Scottsdale Old Town Farmers' Market and Downtown Phoenix Public Market are typically a peaceful lot.

But this past weekend, that calm was shattered when word got around about a recent online article by Kate McClendon of McClendon's Select about their decision to not offer produce at farmers' markets during the hot summer months.

Sure, it doesn't take a gardening genius to realize that lettuce and spinach probably wilt in 107-degree heat. So if a grower isn't up for vending in the summer, no big deal.

But according to the original McClendon article, lettuce and carrots grown in the Phoenix heat taste bitter or soapy. Rather than stop there, Kate (speaking for owner Bob McClendon) also condemned the locals who run the markets.

"...Markets continue to operate and are driven primarily by organizers wanting to continue to collect rent money from the vendors and vendors that need revenue to sustain them," it read. "These markets are operating with little regard for you, the consumer." Ouch.

Not surprisingly, the article was pulled down yesterday after a hailstorm of Twitter posts condemning it. 

More on growing veggies in the Phoenix heat, after the jump...

The farming community has been split on how to react to a blog which leaves no room for the idea of a productive summer growing season in the desert, and encourages locals to shop at Safeway or Whole Foods instead. The most outspoken critic of McClendon's answer to the question of "Why don't you sell during the summer?" has been Carl Seacat of Seacat Gardens.

summerveggies.jpg
ianmalcm via Flickr
Tomatoes may be off the summer menu at some farms, but eggplant and peppers are still around.
​At the start of the dust-up over the weekend, he retweeted a link to the blog in question, along with some scathing remarks about McClendon and a note about a tumultuous day at the farmers' market: "There are a lot of really pissed off vendors and others today. My comments are mild compared to what I've already heard."   

Maya Dailey of Maya's Farm took a more balanced approach to the incident, believing that we should focus on the positives that are happening at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market and other area farmers' markets rather than condemning Bob McClendon for his mistake.

Dailey admits that it's more difficult to keep produce fresh outdoors in the summer, but says ice and misters help to keep summer crops fresh at the market. "Small farm product is usually picked the day before or hours before you get it, so it is already fresher and more viable than food that has been trucked in," she explains.

Locals afraid that summertime crops are limited to one or two vegetable types needn't rush down to the grocery store for imported produce. According to Dailey, Phoenix has a year-round growing climate. While you might not score a plump tomato or a pint of strawberries now, her "summertime bounty" includes butternut squash and squash blossoms, arugula, eggplant, cucumbers and more.

Was BobMcClendon right? Can fruits and veggies grown in the Phoenix heat really be fresh? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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27 comments
Tracy27
Tracy27

Listen, it's fine if McClendon's decides not to grow during the summer - it's hard hot work, it's relatively expensive to keep fields watered, and there are no guarantees that the crops will work out if the weather gets particularly brutal.  Still, getting snarky about one's fellow farmers who make different business choices is rarely a classy move and certainly not helpful in maintaining a positive community spirit re: local agriculture. The truth is that there are many local farmers who can and do commit to making it happen year-round - I personally helped grow, pick and deliver thousands of pounds of absolutely tasty organic produce this summer, right here in Maricopa County.  Ultimately it's the farmers' market or CSA program consumer who gets to vote with their dollars about whether or not the results are worth it - and clearly there are enough people enjoying the bounty provided by local growers in summer to make the effort worthwhile for everyone who chooses to participate.

Primitivepotter
Primitivepotter

Sounds like a lazy bozo who is attempting to justify his decision not to bother with it himself and attempting to build himself up while tearing others down. You can get or grow your own good produce in the valley if you're have some small grasp of gardening and are not an idiot. 

crazybaldhead
crazybaldhead

An awful lot of negative comments towards someone that has spent 30 years developing a world class organic operation. I wish people would ponder a bit before unleashing a keyboard tirade. No one seems to even recognize the tremendous amount of water required to properly sustain a garden in 110 deg heat...that for millenia farming has been based on a seasonal "rest" for the soil...that the demand for a greater selection of vegetables fueled by iced latte clutching urbanites inevitably led to McClendon's expanding into organic, yes ORGANIC imports from California. We should be supporting organic agriculture a few hundred miles away as well as local. The beautiful strawberries I've purchased are clearly labeled as being grown in California--the implied deception in some of these posts is complete bullshit. I sense some jealousy from the local farming community, and it is hardly endearing. Anyone ever read the posts on their website? I do

"During these summer months the biggest thing we do is tend to our soil. As any farmer will tell you, soil is a living, breathing component on a farm that needs to be nourished, nurtured and replenished, just as much as any living creature. Taking care of our soil allows us to give back and revitalize it after it has given to us so generously all year long.We start by first spading under the crops in the field. This time also allows the ground to rest and for a natural composting to occur. The ground is then tilled and laser-leveled. Laser-leveling means making the growing surface as flat and even as possible, which allows for us to conserve water when irrigating the fields, and prevents low lying areas that create pools of standing water when it rains. Pooling water in the fields can ruin the crops in that area and creates an uneven growth."

Yep, sounds like Bob is just a lazy wholesaler/importer *sarcasm*

Milehighchef
Milehighchef

Firebat is right about McClendon's. They like to project that they grown everything their trucks deliver. But that is a farce, his drivers have been seen at WF Williams placing their mesculin mix in a McClendon's box. This goes on more than people know or want to believe. Their are more plants that can be grown here in the desert, they just take more TLC than California. Because let's face it, California's climate is more conducive to growing produce and they've been doing it for longer. 

Henderson Family Farm
Henderson Family Farm

As a "certified organic" farmer in AZ, we have found that heat tolerant varieties exist and, with a bit of work, will produce for you in the summer. We inter-plant cucumbers in corn for the shade, we have trees blocking the hot sun for our eggplant, tomatoes, and squash, the Okra doesn't really much care, and we have a very large water bill. We grow watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers, and even chard.What bothers me most is that some folks think McClendon is the end all of experts like winegeek and that whatever he says is gospel.  Truth is, he isn't and what he says isn't.  McClendon should, for the sake of all, write a retraction and apology for all those he slammed, period.

Dfgaerwer
Dfgaerwer

They are so niceplease plut: www . yessoso . com

Sheralatarr
Sheralatarr

Must admit, after reading the post I felt as though Mr. McClendon was insulting my intelligence. I have shopped PHX Downtown Public Market every Saturday faithfully for two years. While there are a few weeks in summer that are a bit leaner than other times of the year, I have no problem getting all my fresh produce from local growers. I was also disappointed he didn't direct to other local growers, flourishing local economy is good for everyone.

Azgardenfresh
Azgardenfresh

As usual Maya brings grace and sanity to the table.  She is right there is bounty in the summer edibles of the desert.  No need to trash one another.  Do I hear the rainbow of purple and white eggplant roasting on the grill with golden summer sqaush, red, green and chocolate peppers?   Get out your graters for the Parmegiano Regiano to toss on the zucchini roasted with olive oil and garlic. Or grate that zuchinni and make some moist muffins, cakes or fritters.  Melons and cucumbers run through a blender are lucious in cocktails or a cool bath.  Arugula on the burger, the best! Cold basil, bean and corn salad goes well with that burger.  No tomato?  Sure but how about a salsa verde with the green tomatillo?!  Berries are as good in a tart or on a shortcake as they are in a homemade sugar scrub for the body.  Not everyone can take the heat of the summer desert but thank heavens some can.  Not all farmers know how to grow optimally and keep their produce fresh and nutrient rich so it behooves the buyer to know.  Yes, there are less than honorable "market organizers" , buyer be educated, but don't trash those who work hard to grow and bring their honest best.  Aren't we so blessed to have the choices and bounty that we do!  Educate yourself gardener, farmer, buyer, chef.  You can grow, share, shop and cook you conscience as well as your taste buds. Take a look at the link below for just one resource for learning about seasonal local produce.  And... it is ok to supplement with "store bought goods",  really.http://www.asu.edu/fm/document... Stay Cool.

Azgardenfresh
Azgardenfresh

As usual Maya brings grace and sanity to the table.  She is right there is bounty in the summer edibles of the desert.  No need to trash one another.  Do I hear the rainbow of purple and white eggplant roasting on the grill with golden summer sqaush, red, green and chocolate peppers?   Get out your graters for the Parmegiano Regiano to toss on the zucchini roasted with olive oil and garlic. Or grate that zuchinni and make some moist muffins, cakes or fritters.  Melons and cucumbers run through a blender are lucious in cocktails or a cool bath.  Arugula on the burger, the best! Cold basil, bean and corn salad goes well with that burger.  No tomato?  Sure but how about a salsa verde with the green tomatillo?!  Berries are as good in a tart or on a shortcake as they are in a homemade sugar scrub for the body.  Not everyone can take the heat of the summer desert but thank heavens some can.  Not all farmers know how to grow optimally and keep their produce fresh and nutrient rich so it behooves the buyer to know.  Yes, there are less than honorable "market organizers" , buyer be educated, but don't trash those who work hard to grow and bring their honest best.  Aren't we so blessed to have the choices and bounty that we do!  Educate yourself gardener, farmer, buyer, chef.  You can grow, share, shop and cook you conscience as well as your taste buds. Take a look at the link below for just one resource for learning about seasonal local produce.  And... it is ok to supplement with "store bought goods",  really.http://www.asu.edu/fm/document... Stay Cool.

Natalie Morris
Natalie Morris

Why isn't anyone taking into consideration that, before Arizona was urbanized, there were people living here before us growing their own food out of necessity at all times of the year? Has no one ever heard of Native Seeds/SEARCH- an organization currently established to revitalize the seeds that once grew abundantly in our climate before we forced things to grow that weren't meant for it? And, if you absolutely must grow out of season vegetables or ones not conducive to our environment, I think we can all agree that the right technology is fairly widely available and well-known, perhaps even too much. All in all, my home garden is currently flourishing with beans, okra, peppers, purslane and lemon basil because they grow well this time of year and are varieties native to our land. And lately, I've eaten the best figs, melons, squashes, broccoli and even tomatoes that I got from the Phoenix Public Market's LOCAL growers growing locally. Why do I know that? Because I asked, I visited their farms and I can therefore know.

BuyLocal
BuyLocal

Saw a McClendon produce truck driving around Scottsdale today. I guess they still sale produce in the summer; just not at the farmers markets.

firebat
firebat

As great as some of the produce mclendon has, we should put the image away that he actuals grows everything. That farm isn't that big and he buys a lot of produce from California. How is that even logical selling that product from another state at a local Arizona farmers market? Then the small farmers in Arizona have no chance. You go to the farmers markets up north in the state and you will see produce only from within the state. Of all people, why would mclendon tell us to shop at safeway for produce during the summer? That's saying don't support local farmers and buy produce from California. We have a ton of local growers here, duncan trading, Maya, Singh farms, Seacat gardens just to name a few. I would have thought the mclendons would have had more respect. It made feel like I was reading an eateraz blog there for a second.

winegeek
winegeek

HELLO, we live in a DESERT, which is more conducive to death than life. Nothing grows and prospers here, it merely survives, who knows this better than the McClendons.

Corianne Sizemore
Corianne Sizemore

Fruits and veggies can be fresh here in the summer, and they're wonderful. I have a backyard garden overflowing with peppers, squash, berries, and melons right now. It just takes a little more work. 

McClendon's reasoning sounds like a total cop-out.

Quizsicle
Quizsicle

Funny you should mention both transparency and the blog, given that McClendon took down the blog post that sparked the controversy here.

Henderson Family Farm
Henderson Family Farm

Had a friend call me and tell me the same thing about McClendon's truck.  Since he can't or won't grow in the summer, where do you suppose he produce he's delivering is from??

Kristapete
Kristapete

Don't forget Crooked Sky and Love Grows, Rhibafarms, Golo Family farm and a number of others who are working hard to create an agricultural infrastructure here in Phoenix and Arizona. This state is capable of feeding itself, so, shut up about no produce in the summer.

100 DegreeFarming
100 DegreeFarming

@firebat Thanks for letting the "cat out'a the bag"! I'll take soapy carrots grown right here by my lovely neighbors like Maya and the Golos @Phoenix Public Market any day over Cali imports. McClendon is a farce and has been posing as the authority on local farming in AZ for far too long. Just like Safeway, he's been bringing in the goods by the truck load.  Here's to the folks who till the soil and grow the crops no matter what the temp.. Here's to Maya, Dave the egg man, The Golos, Rhibafarms, Sally, Carl Seacat and all the wonderful FARMERS who keep us fed all year long..

firebat
firebat

I could easily think of many farmers in Arizona who can grow in the heat. Ever hear of different varietals that grow in heat. Theres plants of produce that grow in Arizona. People just don't realize it because their clouded. Do you even know how many restaurants mclendon supplies? Add that on top of the farmers markets they were doing and then tell how he magically grows everything for a size of the farm he has in Peoria.

firebat
firebat

I'll admit, some things then bob does grow are really great but I have no clue why they decided to blog and say not to shop at farmers markets in the summer. Does he even know how much the smaller farmers make in az?

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