MADISON — A fire this past winter at the home of a Backyard Farms employee in which the American Red Cross of Maine assisted the family got the Madison-based tomato grower thinking.

How could the company give back to the community and help the Red Cross along the way?

The company decided to host a fundraiser for a new bloodmobile for the state and has scheduled a blood drive from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday at Somerset Abbey in downtown Madison.

“Fortunately, no one was injured,” the company says on its fundraising website. “And thanks to the American Red Cross of Maine, the difficult situation was a lot easier to deal with.”

Backyard Farms, celebrating 10 years in Madison, realized that a blood drive would be the perfect local activity that could help hundreds of people throughout the state. They set an aggressive 50-unit goal for Saturday. The Red Cross of Maine collects over 68,000 units of blood every year. For the past 13 years, 6,000 of those units have been collected in the Red Cross of Maine’s bloodmobile, the only vehicle of its kind in the entire state.

Vantiel Duncan, major gift officer at Maine Red Cross offices in Topsham, said by phone Thursday that blood drives and fundraisers are important because the Red Cross has only one bloodmobile in the state.


“There’s only one bloodmobile for the whole entire state,” Duncan said. “At the current moment, it can’t travel where it should because it’s so old. That’s why we have the campaign.”

Most bloodmobiles have a 10-year life expectancy. That’s where Backyard Farms comes in.

“We’re inspired to help The Red Cross of Maine purchase a state-of-the-art bloodmobile along with five years of fuel and scheduled maintenance,” the company says on the website. “To do this, the Red Cross of Maine needs $500,000. A bloodmobile makes it so much easier for busy people to donate, especially in small towns that don’t have regular blood drives or Red Cross offices.”

The Red Cross of Maine estimates that the blood collected by the new bloodmobile will help save more than 171,000 lives over the next 10 years. And leading by example, Backyard Farms, is sending them a check for $500.

Red Cross of Maine provides 90 percent of the blood to the 37 hospitals throughout the state, Duncan said.

“This is something in which the bloodmobile is very, very important because the hospitals are always in constant need of blood,” she said.


Backyard Farms, which is the largest commercial grower of year-round tomatoes in New England, produces 25 to 30 million pounds of tomatoes annually from about 600,000 plants. It’s also the largest employer in Madison with about 200 employees at its facility at 131 River Road.

Backyard Farms’ greenhouses are hydroponic, which means that nutrients are distributed to plants through a water-based system in which they grow. The greenhouses are kept between 69 and 72 degrees during the day and about 10 degrees cooler at night.

The company grows several varieties of tomatoes that are sent to stores including Hannaford, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and Shaw’s.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


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