Just as the home-grown tomato season ends with the fall harvest, foodies in New England, New York, New Jersey and Maryland can still enjoy hand-picked, vine-ripened tomatoes throughout the four-seasons from Backyard Farms in Madison, Maine.
As everyone knows, good news travels fast and seeing is believing – words to live by. We heard all about the revolutionary Backyard Farms (BYF) from celebrity chef and a long-time organic gardener Mary Ann Esposito at a food show, shortly after she had been named spokesperson for Backyard Farms. It sent us off to our nearest Walmart and Big Y supermarkets which revealed two startling surprises: BYF tomatoes were definitely riper than the usual rock-hard, greenish tomatoes in stores – and fairly priced for the top-of-the line tomatoes.
The final proof was in the tasting at home that night. The tomatoes were ripe and flavorful and the taste even got better throughout the week. (As with bananas, don’t refrigerate tomatoes.)
A bit of Googling revealed details on how BYF’s fresh tomatoes are grown during Maine’s deep-freeze winters. Its highly successful method proves environmentally sustainable fresh vegetables can be grown during inclement weather, any time of year, especially in northern winters. This is a dream come true for consumers who are increasingly demanding – and getting – safer and healthier fresh, frozen and packaged foods in supermarkets
To start with, Backyard Farms tomatoes are grown hydroponically and are non-GMO certified. They’re technically not organic only because they’re not grown in soil, which is a prerequisite for organic designation by the USDA.
But not to worry – BYF is the first hydroponic grower in the USA to met GlobalGAP produce safety standards for tomatoes. The organization is a consumer-advocate, European-based nonprofit and its certification process rivals the “USDA Organic” designation. (The USDA owes it to health-conscious Americans to catch up and establish an organic standard for hydroponics.)
Tim Cunniff, an executive vice president at Backyard Farms told yeahstub.com, “We feel that we are on the forefront of the safety of our product. Our holistic method encompasses all phases of the workplace environment. The entire staff, growers, and product are all one cooperative group. We are very conscious of using only USDA and State Department of Agriculture methods of eliminating disease or bugs in our plants. Every day our growing methods are monitored carefully by the personal gardeners.” He added, “We pride ourselves on transparency. We live in a glass house! So, we have nowhere to hide….and we don’t need or want to hide.”
Since its founding in 2004, the farm has grown to 42 acres of state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouses. The vine-grown fruit is hand-picked at the peak of ripeness, carefully packed and is usually shipped to grocers the same day. To give greenhouse employees a sense of ownership they are called “personal gardeners” and are assigned their own aisles with about 7,000 plants to tend and harvest. A head gardener determines how much water and heat is needed to produce garden-fresh tomatoes.
Speaking of employees, Backyard Farms told the yeahstub.com that “Our employees give us a lot and work hard to grow and harvest the freshest tomatoes possible. And we give a lot back in return.” Benefits include: medical and dental insurance, disability, life and AD&D Insurance, 401K, personal time off, holidays and above industry starting wages. Not many farmers get that kind of a benefit package.
The management team members are serious hands-on environmental stewards as well as appreciative employers, who’ve instituted healthy and energy-saving (protocols (98% efficient) to grow field-quality tomatoes and protect them with thousands of pollinating bumblebee and plant-friendly bugs to help maintain healthy plants and fruit.
For a quick preview, click on the above embedded slideshow, video and visit www.backyardfarms.com to get your own juices flowing.
Original content written by Don Church and Tony Schillaci. Out and Travelin’