This is the impression I got on a spring day as we sat in her greenhouse at Whitehill Farm. While we talked she was planting tomato seeds for her seedling business. As we discussed her history of farming and her work with Seed Saver’s Exchange she would pull out a packet of tomato seeds and tell me all about the variety.
She’s fond of oxhearts; sort of a large paste tomato with a heart shaped crown. The oxheart variety is not too juicy and solid meat all the way through. Great for putting by or as LeBlanc said, “Oxhearts are the best tomato for a BLT.”
LeBlanc and her husband Mike, moved to their home in Wilton in 1985. She had always grown a big garden and was moved to start farming when she found a Hog Heart tomato at New Moon Rising, a health food store in Waterville, in 1986.
That tomato was grown by the “tomato lady” who turned her onto Seed Saver’s exchange.
From there LeBlanc started experimenting with different varieties. Now she grows and saves the seeds of about 25 tomatoes and 10 hot peppers.
In 1991, she created her first Tomato Lovers Paradise catalog. The following year she was certified organic. She is also an organic certification inspector for Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. She performs 25-30 inspections a year for other farmers.
LeBlanc takes pride in the fact that she has inspired three other folks to get into farming. All three worked for her on her farm. She farms on less that 4,000 square feet in 100 raised beds. She practices low till farming and cover cropping because, “you gotta grow good soil if you want to grow good food.”
An avid seed saver, she is challenging herself to save the seeds of biennials; plants that produce seeds the second year of growth. Among the plants she is trying are leeks and cucurbits or squashes.
Currently she sells her seedlings through her online catalog. She is a farmer at the Sandy River Farmers’ Market on Fridays from May to October and at the Winter Market on Saturdays November through April. She also has a spring sale at her farm. She is currently taking orders for spring seedlings on a first come first serve basis.
Whitehill Farm is located at 357 McCrillis Corner Road. Call (207) 778-2685 for more information.
In an occasional series, Karin Schott of New Sharon, interviews the farmers of Franklin County to find out how they got started and the latest trends in agriculture. Schott is a student at Umass Amherst in their Small Farming and Sustainability Certificate Program.