About Us: Company History

Duncan Family Farms is a 2,500 acre produce farm owned and operated by Arnott and Kathleen Duncan. Arnott is a 4th generation Arizona farmer who left his family's farm in 1985 and began growing a few hundred acres of conventionally-grown row crops. By 1994 the farm had expanded into organic production and today Duncan Family Farms grows more than 2,500 acres of specialty crops, primarily organic baby lettuces for processors who provide bagged salads to the retail and food service industries. As their business has evolved the Duncans have tried to blend the best of traditional farming with the latest in agricultural technology. The establishment of a variety of innovative programs has led Duncan Family Farms to receive numerous awards and to become nationally recognized as a 'showcase' of progressive and environmentally sensitive farming techniques.

In 1992 the Duncans decided they wanted to reach out to the community. As a 4th generation Arizona farming family they wanted to help bridge the gap that exists today between urban and rural life. They began by offering educational tours for school groups and establishing a small, seasonal produce stand at their farm site. Over the next eleven years Duncan Family Farms became an extremely popular recreational and educational destination and, by 2002 the farm was one of the fastest growing 'agricultural-tourism' sites in the country. Although all community-based activities had to cease in the fall of 2002 due to a change in flight activity at the nearby air force base, Duncan Family Farms has remained committed to being a good neighbor and an integral part of the community surrounding it.

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Composting/Re-cycling Green Waste: We operate one of the largest privately run composting programs in the Southwest on our farm. Through this extensive and comprehensive composting program we are able to take large quantities of waste from local dairies, chicken farms, and other sources and turn it into natural fertilizer. Once on our farm this ‘waste’ that might otherwise become a nuisance to nearby residents is quickly broken down and used to create healthier soil in which to grow our crops. Our farm also receives truck-loads of tree trimmings, grass clippings and wood chips from local municipalities. We are able to take this waste that would otherwise end up in the local landfill and recycle it in a couple of ways. The tree trimmings and grass clippings are added to our compost piles and help create a natural fertilizer. The wood chips are spread on roadways and in our farm yard which helps to reduce dust and improve the overall appearance of our farm.

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Tree Planting: Each year we purchase and plant several hundred small trees around the perimeter of the land that we farm. As these trees mature they serve as wind breaks, reduce soil erosion, create natural buffers between our farm and nearby homes, improve the overall air quality in our community, and they help to make the area more attractive.

Water Conservation: Because water is such a precious natural resource and so vital to our farming operation, we use a number of state-of-the-art techniques to help conserve it. Some of these practices include:

  • - the use of an extensive water recovery (pump back) system so that we re-use, rather than waste, run-off water;

  • - laser leveling of all fields to decrease water use, erosion, and the leaching of fertilizers while increasing overall irrigation efficiency;

  • - the use of gated pipe, cement-lined ditches and contour farming design to increase irrigation efficiency;

  • - the use of an above-ground drip irrigation system and plastic row covers to increase germination rates and decrease water use;

  • - and the use of sprinkler pipes instead of furrow irrigation on all fields.

 

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Cover Crops: Many people, including our bankers, find it surprising that we grow a number of crops with no intention of ever harvesting them. These cover crops, sometime referred to as ‘green manure’ crops, help to protect and improve the soil by controlling erosion and weeds, and maintaining soil organic matter. Cover crops also increase water infiltration which decreases leaching of nutrients, help retain and recycle plant nutrients between crops, provide habitats for beneficial microorganisms, and increase plant diversity.

Creating Economically Viable Open-Space and Helping to Protect Luke Air Force Base: All communities need businesses as well as open spaces. Although in most circumstances these are mutually exclusive, because of the unique nature and location of our farming operation we are an example of a viable business that provides community-friendly open space. Our location in Luke Air Force Base’s Southern Departure Corridor also helps to preserve low-density, open space that is essential in ensuring the future of the base.

Giving back to the Community by Supporting Arizona Food Banks: Our farm has been a long-time supporter of the Association of Arizona Food Banks and helping to feed hungry families has always been an important mission at Duncan Family Farms. Over ten years ago Arnott Duncan helped to establish the Statewide Gleaning project, an innovative program where inmate labor is used to ‘glean’ fresh produce from the farm’s fields and is then donated to Arizona Food Banks. Through this unique program the farm has been able to donate approximately one million pounds of produce to Arizona Food Banks each season, for a total of more than 12 million pounds to date. The program has also become a national model and has been replicated in other farming areas around the state and country.

 

Awards and Media Coverage

Over the past 20 years, especially during the eleven years we were open to the public, our farm has received a tremendous amount of positive media coverage and numerous awards.

Media Coverage:
• A feature article and photos in Gourmet Magazine
• A cover photo and feature article in the Phoenix New Times
• A feature article and photos in Phoenix Home & Garden magazine
• A feature article and photos in Phoenix Magazine
• A feature article and photos in Successful Farming Magazine
• A photo of our ‘Giant Baby’ mural on the cover of the Arizona Republic
• A feature article and photos in California Farmer Magazine
• Over three dozen articles and photos in the Arizona Republic and numerous stories and photos in more than a dozen different Valley publications.

Awards:
• Valley Forward Association – First Place CRESCORDIA award for environmental education
• Governor’s Pride in Arizona – Environmental Leadership Award
• Governor’s Pride in Arizona – Environmental Education Award
• Arizona Department of Agriculture – Friends of Agriculture Award
• Natural Resource Conservation District – CARES environmental education award
• Westmarc – Best of the West award for Attractions, Destinations and Tourism
• Project PPEP - Outstanding Agricutlural Employer Award
• Farm Journal – Agriculture Spokespersons of the Year (Arnott & Kathleen Duncan, 2002)
• University of Arizona Alumni Association, College of Agriculture, Distinguished Citizen Award (Arnott & Kathleen Duncan, 2003)
• Numerous Awards from Arizona Food Banks