Backyard Farms faces delay in restart, furloughs employees

An employee picks tomatoes at Backyard Farms in Madison.
An employee picks tomatoes at Backyard Farms in Madison. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 09, 2013, at 6:41 p.m.
Backyard Farms employee John Duggan of Canaan transports cases of freshly picked &quotBackyard Beauties," the farm's premiere product.
Backyard Farms employee John Duggan of Canaan transports cases of freshly picked "Backyard Beauties," the farm's premiere product. Buy Photo

MADISON, Maine — Backyard Farms on Friday said it would need to delay the restart of its greenhouse operations and temporarily lay off an unspecified number of employees.

The commercial tomato grower was forced in July to rip out all its half a million tomato plants because of a white-fly infestation. It had expected to plant a new crop and have tomatoes back on supermarket shelves by late October. It produces 27 million pounds of tomatoes a year.

However, the company received a new crop of plants that “did not meet our high quality standards,” Michael Aalto, a Backyard Farms spokesman, told the Bangor Daily News on Friday, “and we have made the decision to reject the plants and begin again.”

Beginning the whole process again means there will be less work for the company’s approximately 200 employees, and that its tomatoes won’t be available again until the beginning of 2014, Aalto said.

While the company has been able to keep employees on the job up to this point, this delay will force it to temporarily lay off an unspecified number, he said.

“We’re still going through the numbers on how many employees will be furloughed, so we’re still working on that,” he said.

The company expects to call back all its employees “on an as-needed basis, some as early as October, as work activity increases,” Aalto said.

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