Eating the World

McClendon's Select Snubs Local Growers With Summer Produce Blog

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.

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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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden

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