electronic Gourmet Guide


Down on the Farm

Duncan Family Farms

Arnott, Kathleen and sons on their organic farm.

A lot has been mentioned about organic farming. Let's take a look at an actual farm and see what they are doing.

Duncan Family Farms is located in Goodyear, AZ, in the farming belt just outside Phoenix. It is run by Arnott and Kathleen Duncan, the fourth generation in the family to be farmers. The Duncan Family Farm has over 300 acres dedicated to certified organic farming. Not only are they certified organic, but the farm is also pesticide free. This requires them to use some very special techniques to keep their farm successful. These techniques include:

  • The release of hundreds of thousands of beneficial insects (ladybugs, wasps etc.) to control bad bugs and help pollination of the plants.
  • Controlling rodents by releasing barn owls and kestral falcons into the vicinity and providing nesting areas.
  • Using trees as barriers to other farms (as biological filters), and to reduce soil erosion.
  • Using natural composted manure from a local race track to fertilize the fields.
  • Conserving water (always a concern in the desert) through laser leveled fields, cement lined irrigation ditches and an extensive re-use system.

Kathleen Duncan refers to the mass production method of farming as "spoon feeding the plants nutrients." with organic farming, the soil is as much a part of the organism as the plant itself. By using compost as the fertilizer instead of chemicals, the soil is rejuvenated, and a healthier plant results. Anecdotally, Arnott has noticed that the plants tend to grow more slowly. The vegetables harvested seem to be more dense, i.e. less of the product is just water. Because there is less water, the vegetables have more concentrated flavor and a somewhat better shelf life. One additional benefit to their location near the large Phoenix market is the vegetables can be harvested at the peak of ripeness and flavor. This make the restaurants whom they deliver to very happy, as well as the public who come to their u-pick stand.

Organic Farming

About the Author

Joe LaVilla originally hails from Rochester, in western New York State. Deciding to forgo his love of food, Joe pursued a degree in chemistry from Cornell University. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the Univ. Of Rochester, he gave in to the inevitable and returned to his culinary calling. A graduate with honors of the Culinary Institute of America, Joe has worked in Manhattan, Washington, D.C. And at Spago in Las Vegas before settling in Phoenix, where he is currently working in off-premise catering. His excellent article "The Nuances of Cooking with Wine: Answers to Common Questions" appeared in the November 1997 issue of The electronic Gourmet Guide.

This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.

Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.

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This page modified February 2007

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