MADISON, Maine — Backyard Farms on Wednesday held an event at its greenhouse operation to celebrate its first harvest of 2014, and the first since last summer, when the company was forced to rip up its entire crop of half a million tomato plants in an effort to eradicate an infestation of white flies.
Backyard Farms, which grows more than 25 million pounds of tomatoes a year at its two greenhouses in Madison, began harvesting its latest crop of tomatoes in late December and has already picked more than 660,000 pounds, according to Michael Aalto, a company spokesman. Consumers throughout New England should have seen the tomatoes reappear on grocery store shelves over the last few weeks.
“We are excited to be in the market with our tomatoes for our customers to enjoy at the start of the new year,” Paul Mucci, Backyard Farms’ president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to harvesting our crop as we are experiencing the typical high demand for our product at this time of the year.”
After destroying its entire crop in July 2013 because of the white-fly infestation, Backyard Farms had a false start in August when the company received a new crop of plants that “did not meet our high quality standards,” Aalto told the Bangor Daily News at the time. It was forced to rip up the entire crop a second time.
While the company initially kept its 200 workers employed after the first crop was destroyed, the setback with the second crop did force the company to make some temporary layoffs. However, the company is back to roughly 200 employees, Aalto said.
Gov. Paul LePage visited Backyard Farms on Wednesday to congratulate the company on its return to the market.
“Backyard Farms is a great example of an innovative business story taking place right here in the state of Maine that is fueled by the hard work and commitment of its local employees,” LePage said in a statement. “New Englanders have to look no further than Madison to get the freshest and most delicious tomatoes available.”