FARMINGTON — Members of the Gold LEAF Institute Senior College enjoyed a field trip to Madison on April 17 as part of their “Our Town” series.

Since first being amazed at the greenhouses in Madison in 2007, members have wanted to tour Backyard Farms, a facility of 25 acres under glass. After an introduction by Backyard Farms crop manager, Becky Battersby, the group was even more amazed upon entering one section of the production facility and viewing it from the inside.

There were towering tomato plant vines in 400 eighth-mile rows of about 650 plants per row, with both mature and baby plants sharing the same space. Mini train-like carts ran on rails between the rows for pickers to harvest the brilliant non-genetically modified fruit and to prune and maintain the developing crop. The enclosed greenhouse runs a quarter of a mile from front to back and produces 25.1 million tons of tomatoes per year. What a visit it was, topped off with complementary juicy cocktail tomatoes which were enjoyed during a picnic lunch on the Madison Public Library lawn.

Another part of the field trip was a visit to the recently restored Madison Public Library. Julie Forbus, head librarian, gave an overview of the beginning of the library in 1903 and the efforts to obtain funding from Andrew Carnegie. Madison is one of 18 libraries in the state that were originally funded by Carnegie. Gold LEAF members toured through winding staircases from the top balcony to the newly painted children’s library in the basement.

The final segment was a stop at the Madison Historical Society. Lena Arno and other historical society officers shared their hometown through explanations of displays, artifacts and photographs at the museum.

Gold LEAF, which is sponsored by the University of Maine at Farmington, is open to anyone age 50 or over who is interested in lifelong learning for the fun of it. There are no educational prerequisites. Information can be obtained through the website, goldleaf.wikispaces.com, or by calling 778-7063.


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