From the Farm to the Table

Writer Shoshana Leon

Photography Courtesy of Scott Foust, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Sanctuary Resort and Spa and Talking Stick Resort

Pat Duncan’s passion for farming began at a very young age.

“I began working on our family farm, hoeing weeds in the cotton fields the summer after second grade,” said Duncan, owner of Duncan’s Trading Company in Laveen. “I soon graduated to irrigator and tractor operator. Later, we added broccoli, cantaloupe and watermelon, but cotton was king.

“After college, I started a farm and was growing cotton and alfalfa. When the cotton market fell out in the early 1990s, I saw an immediate need to wildly diversify. I asked some local chefs at some of my favorite restaurants if they would be interested in locally grown, exotic produce. Every one of them answered ‘yes,’ so I transitioned out of cotton and alfalfa and into specialty vegetables.”

More than two decades ago, Duncan began working with some of Arizona’s most acclaimed chefs including Charles Wiley, Vincent Guirethault and Kevin Binkley, providing beautiful produce for their restaurants. 

Duncan’s farm produces more than 150 varieties of fruits and vegetables, including multicolored bell peppers, radishes and cauliflower, tomatoes, leeks, fennel, and several types of lettuce and greens. 

Popular items among local chefs include Duncan’s exotic melons, heirloom carrots, beets and calabacitas con flor—mixed baby squash with attached blossoms that can be stuffed, often with cheese or shellfish.

Duncan continues to provide produce for restaurants across the Valley, and partners with local chefs and wineries for the annual Farmer in the House dining series, which celebrates 13 years this year. 

“More than 20 years ago, a few chefs asked me to hold a few farm-to-table dinners. As they became more popular, I developed the organized dining series,” said Duncan.

For each dinner in the series, chefs create dishes highlighting Duncan’s produce and pair each course with selections from a winery. 

“The menus are born of the items available on the farm at the time of the dinners. We hold the events in the spring because we still have the winter items, as well as most of the newest spring specialties,” said Duncan.

Attending a Farmer in the House dinner offers the unique experience of hearing directly from the chef and the farmer about the beautiful and delectable dishes which are created around Duncan’s fresh produce. 

“Having a talented chef appear tableside with a wildly creative dish using fruits and vegetables that we grew in our fields is rewarding on so many levels, from the immediate enjoyment of the complex flavors, to the perfectly paired wine, to the pride in the hard work that went into growing and producing a tangible product,” said Duncan.

Many of the restaurants have a long history of participating in the Farmer in the House dining series, including Vincent on Camelback and elements at Sanctuary Resort and Spa. 

“It’s about relationships,” said Chef Wiley, executive chef at Mountain Shadows, which is hosting the Farmer in the House dinner April 7 as part of the resort’s monthly Sunday Supper Club. The dinner will feature four courses highlighting Duncan’s produce, paired with Oregon’s WillaKenzie wines. 

“I started working with Pat when I was at the Boulders more than two decades ago, and we’ve continued to work together over the years. He is a great partner with a strong passion for the beautiful produce he grows and the local culinary community.”

This year there are two new additions to the Farmer in the House dining series: the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ Bourbon Steak and Confluence, the latter of which opened in Carefree to critical acclaim in 2018. 

“We are excited to be a part of the Farmer in the House dining series,” said Brandon Gauthier, owner and chef at Confluence. The May 9 dinner there will feature wines from Arizona’s Page Springs Cellars. 

“We are constantly changing our menu and work with a lot of local farmers and suppliers. Working under Kevin Binkley for many years, I had great experiences partnering with Pat and working with his exceptional produce,” said Chef Gauthier.

The Farmer in the House dining series supports the Association of Arizona Food Banks, a non-profit organization serving five food banks across the state with a mission to develop solutions to end hunger through food banking, public policy and innovation. 

“I had periodically invited the association to glean excess produce from the fields, and one of their employees attended a few of the inaugural dining events,” said Duncan. “Her dedication prompted us to align the organized dining series with the association after hearing more about the fantastic work they do.”

While the farm is not open to the public, Duncan’s produce is available at the Camelback Market at Vincent on Camelback on Saturday mornings from late October through early May. Duncan himself is there regularly and loves to talk about his produce and his work with local chefs. 

The best place to experience how chefs use Duncan’s produce in their menus is at the Farmer in the House dinners. 

“Growing exotic produce is hard work, but it has magical moments, and the dining series ensures lots of them every spring,” said Duncan.

Experience

2019 Farmer in the 

House Dining Series

Contact the restaurants for 

reservations and pricing 

April 4

Vincent on Camelback, Phoenix

602-224-0225

April 7

Hearth ’61 at Mountain Shadows, Paradise Valley

480-624-5400

April 17

Bourbon Steak at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale

480-513-6002

April 25

Arcadia Farms Café, Scottsdale

480-941-5665

May 1

Orange Sky at Talking Stick Resort, Scottsdale

480-850-8606

May 9

Confluence Restaurant, Carefree

480-488-9796

May 16

Elements at Sanctuary Resort and Spa, Paradise Valley

855-245-2051

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