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Bob answers your questions…

August 9, 2009

Since Bob gets asked many of the same questions over again at the Farmers’ Markets, we thought it would be a good idea to answer them all in one spot.

Here are some of the top questions he is asked. We will continue to post more of your questions and the answers moving forward.

Do you grow everything at the markets?
Depending on the season we bring in certified organic fruits and vegetables that do not grow in the Phoenix area such as apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, potatoes, and strawberries. We always try to use Arizona grown organic produce as first choice and turn to California grown organic as a backup. However, during our peak growing season more than 80% of the fruits and vegetables sold from McClendon’s Select are grown locally at our farm.

Where do you grow all of your produce?
The McClendon’s Select farm is on 25 acres located in Peoria in the Northwest Valley, about 20 miles from the Town & Country Farmers’ Market. We grow more than 150 kinds of produce and fruit.

Can we come and visit the farm?
Due to our seven day-a-week work schedule we are not open to the public; however, we plan to post a virtual tour of the farm on the website and blog for you to visit.

Do you sell from the farm?
No – we are not set up to sell to the public from our farm. We make our organic produce available to the public through the Town & Country Farmers’ Market and the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers’ Market during the season.

When do you start doing farmers markets every year?
Every year we start back at the Town and Country Farmer’s Market in October and the Old Town Scottsdale Farmer’s Market in November. The Town and Country Market runs until the end of June. The Old Town Scottsdale Market runs until the end of May. Please refer to the website for the exact dates and times for this year’s markets.

Do I need to wash my salad greens?
It is advisable to wash all types of produce before you eat them, but wash them only right before you eat them. Do not go home and wash your produce right away and then store them, because the washing will start the spoiling process.

All of our cut and washed greens like baby spinach, arugula, lettuce mixes are washed in a sophisticated Italian-made greens washer. This system provides a very clean, high quality product that removes excess water from the greens through centrifugal force (spinning). This equipment is designed to do minimal physical damage to the leaves.

Do you sell to local restaurants?
Yes – we sell to a number of local restaurants in the Phoenix, Flagstaff and Las Vegas areas. We plan to profile the chefs and restaurants we work with and show how they prepare our organic produce on the blog. If you are interested in the restaurants we sell to, ask Bob at the markets for a current list of restaurants that are serving McClendon’s Select organic produce.

How did you get your start in growing organic produce?
When I was a young child my grandmother put some squash seeds between two paper towels on a plate for a few days and showed me how seeds germinate. This sparked my curiosity as to how things grow. I was fascinated with how the combination of soil, water and light worked to nurture and grow plants.

Later while I attended the University of Arizona Pharmacy School, to become a Pharmacist, my education rekindled my interest in the study of plants. Pharmacognosy, the study of how medicines are derived from plants, was a required part of my education. I did greenhouse work to learn how to grow plants that were useful in the making of drugs. During school I also worked as a research lab assistant in the USDA Honeybee Research Lab in Tucson. This is where I learned about honeybees and their importance in agriculture.

When Marsha and I married and moved into our first home in the Phoenix area we had two acres. It was just big enough for a garden and some livestock. Gardening became a part of our lives and has remained ever since. Our gardens have grown exponentially throughout the years as we moved to homes with more land. We moved to our current home in 1975 where we now have 25 acres.

Over the years I have started and owned a number of medically related businesses. During this time, I would bring the abundant produce that we grew, and give it to our employees twice a week.

Around 2000, I saw a growing interest in organically grown fruit and vegetables. People were starting to become more aware of how their produce was grown and from where it was originating. The more I read about the benefits and the science of growing organic produce it seemed to marry my two passions of farming and the medical sciences. I started to study the microbiology of soil chemistry and the concept of nurturing the soil through using natural elements that were beneficial for the plants rather than adding harsh nitrogen and chemicals that would destroy the microbiology of the soil. What I learned was, that if I took proper care of the soil I wouldn’t have to worry about feeding the plants because the soil would do it properly for me.

We made the decision to transition to organic farming in 2001. In 2002, the United States Congress passed the National Organic Program. This legislation created a system for certifying and defining organic produce. The USDA oversees this program to regulate the standards for organic food production, processing, delivery and sales.

While I was learning about organic growing, the health benefits of eating organic started to emerge in scientific literature. I read time and again about the number of people with cancer who were seeing remarkable results in their prognosis due to a change in their diet. Eating organic foods was eliminating the chemicals from commercial growing from their diets. This raised a huge flag to me that said there was something significant and substantial about the link between diet and diseases. I saw through my own study and work with organic growing I could help promote the benefits of eating a sound, healthy diet. As both a pharmacist and now farmer, this drew on all areas of my life’s work.

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