Backyard Farms back in production - The Packer

Backyard Farms back in production

01/09/2014 09:17:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Courtesy Backyard Farms LLCAmong those in attendance at an open house Jan. 8 at Madison, Maine-based Backyard Farms LLC were the company's head grower Arie van der Giessen (from left); chief operating officer Paul Mucci; Maine Gov. Paul LePage; and executive vice president of sales and marketing Tim Cunniff. Greenhouse tomato grower Backyard Farms LLC is back in business after problems in 2013 made the company replant its crop twice.

Madison, Maine-based Backyard Farms began shipping cocktail tomatoes around Christmas, and its other varieties followed shortly thereafter, said Tim Cunniff, the company’s executive vice president of sales and marketing.

The problems for Backyard Farms, which grows year-round on 42 acres and focuses on the Northeast in its distribution, began in early July, when a whitefly infestation forced the company to pull its entire crop.

At the time, it looked like Backyard Farms would have a new crop of tomatoes to ship by late fall.

But a second problem — seedlings that didn’t meet quality standards — pushed shipments back to the end of the year, Cunniff said.

“Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and we’re feeling pretty strong right now,” he said.

Backyard Farms is coming into the market at a perfect time, when supplies are lower, and with outstanding quality, Cunniff said. He said the company’s retail partners, who have been supportive over the past months, are eager to promote Backyard Farms tomatoes again.

The company celebrated its return to production with an open house at its greenhouse Jan. 8. Among those in attendance were local and state political leaders, including Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

The state has been very supportive, Cunniff said, helping get unemployment benefits quickly to Backyard Farms employees who were furloughed after the whitefly infestation and seed quality problems.

“It’s a time to celebrate,” Cunniff said. “We’re pretty excited.”

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