MADISON, Maine (AP) — New England’ s largest greenhouse grower of vine-ripened tomatoes plans to build a second greenhouse at its central Maine site, nearly doubling its year-round growing space.
Backyard Farms LLC is scheduled to begin construction this fall on the new 18-acre, state-of-the-art greenhouse, with the first harvest expected a year later. Backyard Farms opened a 24-acre greenhouse last year.
“With this second greenhouse, we expect to bring our local work force to more than 175 employees, offer new tomato varieties and meet the increasing demand for our locally grown, top-quality tomatoes-on-the-vine,” Backyard President Roy Lubetkin said.
At a cost of more than $20 million, construction of the new facility will give the company nearly 2 million square feet of greenhouse growing space. About 75 workers will be hired for the new greenhouse next spring.
Backyard Farms has found success after taking up the challenge of stretching the agricultural calendar in a state well-known for cold weather and short growing seasons. Since its first harvest in January 2007, the Lexington, Mass.-based company has sold more than 20 million pounds of tomatoes to retailers that include a big regional supermarket chain.
It also claims to have created one spinoff job locally for every three jobs at Backyard Farms.
At Backyard Farms, tomatoes nicknamed Backyard Beauties are left on the vine to ripen and shipped within a day of harvest.
Backyard Farms’ backers were attracted to Madison by its low electric rates and the availability of 330 acres of flat, open terrain, some of it owned by a retired dairy farmer. The company envisions even further expansion with additional greenhouses that might turn out other hydroponic produce, such as cucumbers, peppers, eggplant and culinary herbs.
The state has provided assistance in the form of tax incentives, job training and expedited environmental reviews. Gov. John Baldacci, who sampled some of the first Backyard tomatoes to be harvested in January 2007, called the business “a true market leader and the ‘ go-to’ source for local, year-round on-the-vine tomatoes in the northeastern United States.”