Backyard Farms

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People Behind the Plants | Steve Mattice

In addition to crop care workers, pickers, packers, supervisors, maintenance workers and office folks, it takes a lot of STUFF to keep Backyard Farms growing all year-round.  Making sure we have the stuff we need, when we need it, at the best possible price is a big job that we've placed in the hands of one very capable man. In this edition of People Behind the Plants, we're proud to introduce you to that man. Our Purchasing Agent for the past three years Steve Mattice is responsible for every buying decision we make -- from the powder-free, non-latex gloves we wear to protect our tomatoes to the 1,000 watt high pressure sodium light bulbs that help our plants grow in the middle of winter.

What does a typical day look like?

Steve usually starts his day around 7am by checking his email to field new requests from the growing teams who arrive at 6am or shipment updates that came in overnight. Once he's caught up on current orders, he walks our greenhouses and talks to our people about their future plans so he can order the things they need. before they need them. Whether it’s a new piece of machinery, the clips that we use to attach our plants to the strings that hang from the ceiling or something as minor as notebooks, Steve is always collaborating with the different teams at Backyard Farms to be as efficient as possible with our inventory with no shortages. "You can't run out of light bulbs in January," he says with a grin. "That's just not an option."

As our primary contact for every buying decision, Steve gets a lot of calls and emails from vendors trying to sell us everything from growing mediums made from coconut husks to LED light bulb systems that cost millions of dollars. "We have some terrific long term relationships with a lot of dependable vendors who treat us well but I always try to listen to new ideas from new suppliers," Steve explains. "It's good for me to know what's out there and it's good for our vendors so they're consistently motivated to improve their products and their prices. We're a fun and fascinating business but we're still a business. We need to keep our costs as low as possible so we can keep the price of our tomatoes where our consumers like them."

Favorite part of Backyard Farms?

Steve answered this question with no hesitation: “The pride in the product. Everyone here plays a key role in the growing of tomatoes, even if they aren’t caring for the plants directly. We all take that responsibilty seriously and it really shows in the quality of the plants and the tomatoes."

One thing you are most proud of?

He is most proud of bringing some much needed order to the purchasing function where last minute requests were commonplace . “Everyone was doing their own thing but now there is a system with more structure.” he said. "With the things we have put in place, more often than not we are able to keep items on hand and have them available before people know they need them." Steve has also gotten better at "predicting" what people need which is why his daily walks through the greenhouse are so important. "I've had an incredible opportunity to get to know everybody at the farm and learn about what they do. That's given me a much better understanding of how I can help them do their jobs better."

What do you want people to know about Backyard Farms?

It’s all local. “It’s nice to see friends and neighbors producing a fruit of such high quality,” he says.

How should a company that wants to do business with Backyard Farms star the process?

"Reach out to me," Steve says. "We have an approval process and we have many long-term vendors that we value and trust but I'm always interested in hearing from companies who can help us do our jobs better. Whether it's better snacks in our breakrooms to a better price on our Grodan bags, the more information I have, the better our operation will run and the better our tomatoes will be."

Favorite tomato recipe?

Steve says is favorite recipe is his wife’s spaghetti sauce! Her recipe has been handed down generation by generation in her family.

A post about Steve wouldn't be complete without a final salute to his "can do" attitude and willingness to help out with any project, no matter how far beyond his scope of work it happens to be. Case in point, when our maketing guy was elated to see the Backyard Farms logo on the cover of the L.L. Bean Direct to Business catalog and decided to create a social media contest around it, Steve was the first person he approached to pose for the accompanying photo. Steve is not only a detail-oriented office pro, he's a passionate ambassador of our company who has been known to deliver tomatoes straight to the doors of organizations we've pledged them to for fundraising events. Steve may never prune or deleaf a plant or pick a tomato but he's an important part of our business and a huge reaoson why our tomatoes are as good as they are. Thanks, Steve!!