Backyard Farms overcomes 'growing pains', ready to meet strongest demand of the year

Backyard Farms, the Maine-based tomato producer, has overcome significant ‘growing pains’ in the last year, and emerged triumphantly in 2014.

A whitefly infestation, followed by propagated plants that did not meet quality standards, led to a full re-replant, setting them back six weeks.

Tim Cunniff, Backyard’s VP of Sales, said the company upholds slightly higher standards than the industry standard and the re-planting decision was “a quality call in terms of what we wanted to do.”

They’re now back on track and ready to meet the strongest demand of the year, said Tim.

“We started picking a little bit just around Christmas, then by the end of Christmas and the week of the New Year, we were in full production,” he said.

Reflecting on 2013, he explained how an empty greenhouse actually enabled them to overhaul and address everything that needed to be done inside the glass – which is not always possible, as a year-round producer.

With 42 acres of tomatoes spread across two greenhouses, and two crop cycles in both greenhouses (yielding 25 million pounds of tomatoes a year), Tim pointed out the difficulties of doing full maintenance when the site is full of plants.

There are, he said, “things you can’t do with a full greenhouse, but we kept our maintenance team on board and we were able to fix everything so the greenhouse is as good as it gets. All the lights are working. Everything was doubled-checked. There were small minor fixes and we took care of those. We went through it with a fine-tooth comb and now the greenhouse is in perfect shape.”

Going forward, they have a new grower in Arie van der Giessen, and after evaluating the situation and all their protocols, they have, said Tim, “got a little bit more aggressive with our IPM and our mechanicals, looked at the level of investment we’re making into those types of things and where we need to focus.”

In spite of the hurdles they faced last year, Backyard Farms retained all of its staff, updated them regularly, and everyone returned for the new season.

Although he declined to reveal what varieties of TOVs, Cocktail and Beef tomatoes they grow, he said they are ‘very confident in our core varieties’, and upholding the quality their customers have come to expect.

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Backyard Farms

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