February 25 Planting Day Photo Recap
At Backyard Farms, we've learned a lot in the 10 years since we've been in business. One of the most important things we've learned is how much you enjoy seeing how we manage to grow fresh tomatoes in the middle of Maine in the middle of winter. Since our strict food safety standards restrict us from giving tours of the greenhouse, this year we've resolved to provide more behind-the-scenes photos and videos of our employees in action. Saturday, February 25th was a particularly busy day as we interplanted several thousand new plants into Greenhouse 2. As the video at this link shows, planting days are always exciting days at Backyard Farms. We want to get the baby plants unloaded from the truck and moved in as quickly as possible to minimize stress and get them established in their new home. This requires a lot of hard work and teamwork at a very fast pace. It's a frenzy of coordinated activity that rolls through the greenhouse like a wave and it's quite a sight to behold.
Before the planting started at 6am, crop care workers Jim, Ian, Robert and Chris (along with Ben sneaking in behind them) stopped to pose for the photo above. There are a few interesting things to point out in this photo (and we're not just talking about the size of Jim's arms). See how there's a yellow tint to the image like an old photo album? At 6am in February, the sun is just starting to come up in Madison, ME. That means our 20,000 watt high pressure sodium grow lights are the only source of light which causes the funky yellow glow.
As you can see, when the baby plants arrive in our packhouse they're about 18" tall. If you're wondering why we don't plant them from seed, the fact is we simply can't afford to be out of production for the 5-7 weeks it takes for the plants to grow to this size. To maximize efficiency, we leave the task of getting the babies from seeds to seedlings to a propagator. After the babies are planted in the greenhouse, it will take another 6-10 weeks for the tomatoes from these plants to be ready for picking.
To ensure we are still producing tomatoes, we "interplant" the babies next to older, established plants. These older plants have been producing tomatoes for several weeks and will continue to produce while the baby plants are getting up to speed. If we didn't interplant, we'd have to "clean out" the entire greenhouse every 42-50 weeks when all of the plants reached the end of their lives. That would mean no tomatoes for 2-3 months every year which doesn't work for ANYBODY. Interplanting gives us the ability to produce year-round as well as the flexibility to schedule the clean out of a different 12-acre section of the greenhouse every August.
In the photo above, smiling Cheyra prepares to interplant baby cocktail tomatoes next to more established plants.
And here's what the plants look like when they've settled in their new home. Note the dripper (circled in blue) that is inserted into the rock wool that the plant is rooted in. This dripper will provide the plant with all the nutrients it needs for all of its days in our greenhouse.
Six hours after we started planting, all of the babies are safe and sound in their new homes and crop care workers like Travis (above) can go home and enjoy the rest of the day. It's a tremendous amount of work that requires everyone to pitch in but because we're literally planting the future of our greenhouse, planting days are our favorite days at Backyard Farms. Thanks for taking the time to learn about one of the most important functions at the greenhouse. Look for more posts like this in the future and be sure to like us on Facebook so you never miss an update!