BY RAMONA DU HOUX
March 28, 2012
The Madison, Maine, tomato producer has plans to construct a research and development building on its River Road property to be used to test new tomato varieties and growing techniques. The new development will encompass 33,550 square feet, or about three-quarters of an acre. The greenhouse portion of the research building will total 15,200 square feet, with an additional 4,800-square-foot office building.
Backyard Farms was drawn to this rural Madison paper mill town in 2006 because of Governor John Baldacci’s Pine Tree Development Zone tax incentives, cheaper electricity, available land, and the workforce. It harvested its first crop of tomatoes in its 24-acre greenhouse in 2007.
The greenhouses have high-tech lighting that gives the plants the same amount of light year-round, regardless of outside conditions. So, the growing season never ends. The rain and melted snow from the roof is captured to irrigate the tomatoes and imported bees pollinate the plants. Backyard Farms tomatoes are left on the vine to ripen and shipped within just a day of harvest, creating a tomato that is sweet and fresh.
The expansion is projected to be complete by the end of the year, which means the company will hire several more people. Bringing the total workforce up to 200.
The success of their previous tomatoes called for more space to grow different tomato varieties and test various growing methods. The testing of different products might lead to a type of tomato the company may grow in larger greenhouses. It could also lead to another greenhouse construction.
Backyard Farms currently operates 42-acres of greenhouse growing space that provides the Northeast with fresh, locally-grown tomatoes year-round.