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Meet My Favorite Arizona Organic Farmer! August 5, 2013

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau

I met Robert (Bob) McClendon of McClendon’s Select more than 6 years ago when I first came on with Arizona Farm Bureau. I was first struck by his passion for farming and his commitment to his customers whom are mainly the high-end chefs here in Arizona.

Members of Arizona Farm Bureau, Bob was very specific on what he expected Arizona Farm Bureau to do on behalf of retail/direct-market farms like his. He told me, “Julie, help the small, direct market farmer learn how to market himself better.” I’ve been on a quest ever since.

One result of that first conversation is Arizona Farm Bureau’s new book, A Farmer’s Guide to Marketing the Direct-Market Farm available on Amazon.

Bob and Marsha, along with their son Sean, his wife Kate and their grandson Aidan grow exclusively USDA certified organic, all local, on a limited amount of acres and mainly to chef-owned, chef-directed restaurants, never to chain restaurants. They sell directly to the public twice-a-week at the Town and Country Farmers’ Market and the Old Town Farmers’ Market during their growing season. They started selling at the Town and Country Market more than a decade ago, and forged relationships with customers and chefs that have lasted and grown ever since.

One of McClendon Select’s customer’s, Chef Charleen Badman of Scottsdale’s FnB restaurant is regularly inspired to create unique culinary dishes thanks to Bob’s passion for farming.

“We only wanted to work with restaurants that are passionate about using organic, local produce,” says Marsha. They have developed such a following of such chefs that the farm now has a waiting list of restaurants wanting to do business with them. Beginning with 25 acres, Bob says “We continue our quest for excel­lence even as we expand our acreage.”

My latest conversation series of articles feature Bob. Hopefully, you’ll read the article. But if not, below are my highlights of the conversation.

1. Bob is passionate about what he does.

2. Bob believes in the organic certified label.

3. The commitment of farm families to family can be felt in this conversation article.

4. Bob’s customers are important to him.

5. Bob has more marketing strategies up his sleeve than any “retail” farmer/business person I know.

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