West Valley farmer caters to Phoenix chefs and foodies

By: Julia De Simone - May 2016
Arizona Republic

Only with age did I realize the food my family prepared always tasted better in the company of others.

Whether linguine with clams or a fresh tomato seasoned simply with olive oil, sea salt, oregano and basil, it was a gift to savor among those I loved without the rush of a clock.

An appreciation for that is perhaps one reason Patrick Duncan has filled a niche with his “Farmer in the House” dining series.

Duncan, a Litchfield Park resident, makes a living growing produce for some of the most high profile chefs in the Valley.

He's a fourth-generation Arizona farmer who owns Duncan’s Trading Company in Laveen. If the Duncan name sounds familiar, his brother also is in the agriculture business, the owner of Duncan Family Farms in Buckeye.

Patrick Duncan grows his crops on less than 30 acres combined in Laveen and the South Mountain area.

In the 1990s, faced with urban encroachment and drops in commodity prices, Duncan began to explore his options. In talking with Valley chefs, he heard their demand for specialty crops.

Today, the "gentleman farmer" at Duncan's Trading Company grows more than 150 exotic varieties of sustainable, seasonal fruits and vegetables. And his work with top Valley chefs has grown, highlighted by the dining series now underway.

Ten years ago, Duncan launched the "Farmer in the House" dining series “at some of my favorite restaurants across the Valley."

It's become a hit with chefs and foodies alike.

Chefs in restaurants around the Valley prepare unique dinners with Duncan's produce and wine pairings.

The series began in March and runs until June 1.

Costs vary by menu and venue. The proceeds are donated to the Association of Arizona Food Banks, which delivers food and services to food banks.

Duncan said the highlight is witnessing chefs having carte blanche to use their talents to create culinary masterpieces based around his fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Food is an integral part of the communal engagement of people,” Duncan said. “It allows the chefs to veer from their standard chef menu and create something special – it lets them show off."

His organically grown produce ranges from 18 varieties of summer and hard-shell winter squash to eight varieties of exotic melons, as well as five varieties of multi-colored watermelons.

“Food is an integral part of the communal engagement of people,” Duncan said. “It allows the chefs to veer from their standard chef menu and create something special – it lets them show off."

His organically grown produce ranges from 18 varieties of summer and hard-shell winter squash to eight varieties of exotic melons, as well as five varieties of multi-colored watermelons.