Whitehill Farm
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Name:          Whitehill Farm

Address:      Amy and Mike LeBlanc

                      P.O. Box 273

                     357 McCrillis Corner Road

                     East Wilton, Maine  04234

Phone:         207-778-2685


Email:          amy@whitehillfarm.com

Website:      www.whitehillfarm.com

Products and Services:

-certified organic seedlings

-heirloom seeds

-vegetables and fruits

-online Western Maine Market

-Tomato Lovers Paradise catalog

-Sandy River Farmers’ Market

-Farmington Winter Farmers’ Market

-dried and fresh herbs, herb mixes

-teas, vinegars, jams, jellies, preserves

-condiments, pickles, relishes,  luffa

-wholesale to specialty food stores

-edible flowers

-farm fresh eggs (non-GMO feed, free range)

-music instruction - cello and viola

What Makes Whitehill Farm Unique?

Since the beginning of this educational outreach project, the question, “Have you visited the Tomato Lady in East Wilton yet?,” was asked several times.  Unique Maine Farms had the opportunity to drop in and visit Amy LeBlanc at Whitehill Farm this past April. While she certainly has mastered an in-depth knowledge of all things related to tomatoes, there’s a whole lot more going on at the LeBlanc’s farm than just growing tomatoes.

Amy and Mike LeBlanc seem to have approached their desire to run a successful gardening enterprise in a very unique fashion.  In 2013, their greenhouse operation was only open from May 25 through June 2.  They took orders for seedlings through April 25. The customers who placed orders were expected to pick up their orders at the farm.  Unlike past years, the LeBlancs are no longer welcoming drop-in or walk-in customers.  They have navigated to a business plan that is exclusively based on pre-ordering and that incorporates welcoming visitors for a limited eight-day period.

Amy’s passion for growing some of the most

unusual varieties of tomatoes and her Tomato Lovers Paradise catalog have been embraced by gardeners from all over the world.  She has grown hundreds of varieties and she can easily rattle off the origins, uses, strengths and weakness, and the particular tastes of each one.  She is passionate about preserving heirloom varieties of seeds.  As Amy explained, all heirloom varieties are “open pollinated” which means that they will breed true from carefully-saved seed.

Many of the heirloom seeds which Amy uses have been saved through the years by family members, relatives of immigrants, or members of religious communities.  In 2013, the LeBlancs offered 173 varieties of tomato seedlings,  98 varieties of peppers, and 21 varieties of eggplants. One of their most recent heirloom plants is the Gaccetta tomato that was brought from Italy over to the Rumford area and saved by an elderly man.  Italy is well-represented at the LeBlanc farm. The Italian Tomatoes selection in the most recent edition of the Tomato Lovers Paradise catalog includes sixteen varieties, while there are twelve kinds of Italian peppers and four kinds of Italian eggplants.

On the day that Unique Maine Farms visited, Amy shared a quick overview of the different types of tomatoes that she carries - slicer, paste, beefsteak, cherry, oxheart, stuffing, storage, and grape.  More technical descriptions could easily be shared in this profile, but it is highly recommended that readers access the Tomato Lovers Paradise catalog which can be found on the Whitehill Farm’s website. The catalog is filled with interesting descriptions of how the particular seed was acquired and its uses.  In addition to tomatoes, various other offerings include edible flowers and herbs and mixed six-packs of kales, broccolis, cabbages, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and chards.

If readers neglected to pre-order for seedlings with Amy by the deadline, there is no need to despair. Other outlets exist for obtaining the products that Amy sells.  She lists some of the available items (jams, jellies, dried herbs, organic eggs, seed magnets, handcrafted earrings from chicken feathers, pickles, relishes, etc.), on the website of the Western Maine Market.  From the middle of August to the end of October, Amy participates in the Sandy River Farmers’ Market in Farmington.  Then she heads over to the Farmington Grange for the Farmington Indoor Farmers’ Market during autumn through April.

The LeBlancs’ abbreviated timeframe for purchasing plants is certainly understandable when one becomes aware of all the other activities with which Amy LeBlanc is involved.  She is a crop certification specialist for MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association) and a coordinator for the Exhibition Hall at the Common Ground Fair.  She is active with seed saving; carrying out research projects; trial gardens; conducting talks; assisting social service agencies; preserving foods; and sharing her love for music.

Amy graduated from Kalamazoo College with a degree in music education.  For seventeen years she was a music instructor in the public and private school systems.  Her cello and viola skills are shared with five different music ensembles throughout Maine. She has continued offering private instruction in cello and viola to students of all ages interested in learning how to play a stringed instrument.  Several of her young music students sign on for part-time seasonal employment in the gardening operation at Whitehill Farm.

Amy was the keynote speaker at the 2007 Common Ground Fair and she delivered a great address entitled, “The Importance of Pickles...Or, Why I Put Up with Teenagers Working in My Greenhouse!”  In this speech she communicated how the young workers at Whitehill Farm were given the opportunity to learn a great deal about responsibility, a good work ethic, customer relations, team work, and the world of plants.  The “pickles” component of the speech dealt with the fact that her highly-valued homemade dill pickles were able to be enjoyed by the teen workers with the clear understanding that they, in turn, would agree to learn and participate in the process of preserving pickles.

Pickle processing is just a fraction of what the teen workers at Whitehill Farm learn.  They are given the opportunity to discover all about food crop genetic diversity and the seed preservation of varieties that are in jeopardy of disappearing.  Amy has contributed many heirloom seeds to the Seed Savers Exchange and to the Farmington Seed Savers.

Amy’s knowledge of plant physiology is advanced and visitors could easily assume her degree was in botany and that she was a science teacher.  She has kept up with organic farming issues and developments.  She has been a recipient of two Northeast SARE grants for  funding to study disease in garlic. She is a member of MOFGA, the Northeast Organic Farming Association, and the Certified Naturally Grown program. Every three years she travels on a major international trip to attend the Organic World Congress hosted by the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements.  She is planning her 2014 trip to Istanbul.

Perhaps one of the most significant lessons that the teen workers at Whitehill Farm learn is how it is important to reach out to help those in need.  For many years, thousands of seedlings at Whitehill Farm are grown specifically for two social service agencies.  For the past twenty years, the Rural Community Action Ministries has received the seedlings.  Western Maine Community Action has been a recipient of the LeBlancs’ generosity for the past fifteen years.

There are seventy-five 4‘x10’ raised beds throughout the 100-acre farm that is owned by Mike and Amy LeBlanc.  While they maintain a 26 x 48 greenhouse on their property, they also have constructed seven greenhouses made from garage-like structures. A small starter greenhouse and two greenhouses attached to their home are also part of the picture.  Mike LeBlanc, a retired software engineer, has been very supportive with the many construction and repair jobs at the farm.

The LeBlancs’ mastery of the utilization of

space in their greenhouses is quite remarkable.  In one of their solar greenhouse additions to their home, there are several levels of plants growing.  Some are accessed by stepping below ground level and others are reached by ascending ladders.  Bright blue ribbons hang down from shelves as a warning to visitors to prevent any bumping of  heads.  A visit to the LeBlanc home is quite a treat. Every single space is filled with plants, hanging dried herbs, seeds, and garden-related items. Even the bathroom is filled with seedling trays!  There is a root cellar and a comprehensive composting system.  Various items are recycled.  The donation of used yogurt containers is always

appreciated for the transplanting of seedlings.

Because of Amy’s extensive collection of heirloom tomatoes, she most probably will continue to retain the title of the “Tomato Lady

of Maine.”  It certainly is a well-deserved distinction.  After learning about Amy’s work

promoting a whole assortment of organic heirloom vegetables besides tomatoes; her shepherding of young farmers; her various studies on plant disease; her love of music; and her commitment to supplying social service

agencies with thousands of seedlings, her many contributions to the garden scene in Maine

certainly are much more comprehensive than the recognition that “Tomato Lady” implies.



Seed Savers