(Feb. 2) With a new 1-million-square-foot greenhouse in Maine in production, New Englanders can now look forward to a year-round supply of locally grown vine-ripened tomatoes.

Paul Sellew, president, chief executive officer and co-founder of Backyard Farms LLC, Madison, Maine, said tomato harvesting in the company’s greenhouse started Jan. 29.

The governor of Maine, John Baldacci, picked one of the first tomatoes during a grand opening celebration that day and he said he loved it, Sellew said.

“He grew up in a family restaurant business,” Sellew said. “He knows his tomatoes.”

Backyard Farms, which has 65 employees, sells the tomatoes under the Backyard Beauties label. Within 24 hours of harvest, tomatoes are packed in 11-pound boxes and shipped throughout New England, Sellew said.

The 25-acre greenhouse uses environmentally friendly technologies including rainwater reclamation, high-efficiency boilers and thermal blankets, he said. Bumblebees pollinate the plants, which are to grow year-round under a consistent amount of lights from grow lamps, Sellew said.

Backyard Farms received economic development incentives to build the greenhouse in Maine, and Sellew said he expects the company to benefit the community through its sustainable business practices. The company philosophy includes taking good care of its employees, the community and the environment, he said.

“We hope in our small way to be part of the economic engine of Maine,” Sellew said.

Maine company offers year-round tomatoes
Gov. John Baldacci picks one of the first tomatoes during a grand opening celebration Jan. 29 for Backyard Farms LLC, Madison, Maine. The 1-million-square-foot greenhouse uses environmentally-friendly technologies including high-efficiency boilers, thermal blankets and rainwater reclamation.