On a cold late April morning, when the outside landscape remains brown, there is an explosion of verdant green inside the the former Hoboken Gardens hothouses, in Rockport. Healthy seedlings and hanging plants arrived by truck from the Midwest just a week ago, and the greenhouses, which had been shuttered all winter, have come alive.
Wendy and Bruce Reinemann, owners of Guini Ridge Farm in Union, along with their son, Daniel, were also inside on this cool morning. They are leasing the seven greenhouses from Maryann, Stuart and Tyler Smith, who purchased Hoboken Gardens last year from the Farley family, and have plans to fill the 20,000 square feet of extended-season growing area not just with nursery plants, but with hydroponically-grown tomatoes, eggplant and cucumbers.
And then there will be the greens and micro-greens — pea shoots, lettuces, spinach — the produce that mostly arrives throughout the colder months by truck from Florida and Mexico.
This new Rockport venture is part of a natural expansion of Guini Ridge Farm. In Union, the Reinemanns, cultivate a variety of vegetables, including beets, squash, broccoli, scallions, on close to three acres. They also raise lambs, and make sausage. The move to Rockport is part of a bigger vision to keep farming going year-round.
“It seemed like a natural fit,” said Wendy Reinemann.
She, Bruce and Daniel were inside the greenhouses with their longtime crew members Nancy Barker. Others, including Wendy’s mother, Mary Heckmann, and husband and wife team, Paul Kraemer and Trina DiMarzo, were due to arrive soon. Kraemer and DiMarzo were MOFGA interns with the Reinemanns and who just recently bought their own farm in China.
Wendy and Bruce founded Guini Ridge Farm in 2001 and have been building their reputation since then with quality produce, flowers, lamb, chicken, beef and their Merguez sausage.
They have been a steady presence at the Camden Farmers’ Market, and will continue to be there on Wednesdays and Saturdays, at the market’s new location on Washington Street. Guini Ridge will also continue their popular periodic summer Farm to Fork dinners in their barn.
But the opportunity to expand to Rockport is another outgrowth of the Guini Ridge operations, and with seven greenhouses, an arbor and lots of open space, the creative juices are just starting to flow.
The Reinemanns combined enterprises with the Smiths early last winter, thanks to Annie Kassler, at Camden Real Estate, who recognized a good fit for like-minded entrepreneurs and introduced them.
The Smiths purchased Hoboken last year, with the idea of keeping the greenhouses functioning, and teaming up with Taylor Allen and Martha White in creating community housing and business ventures on the well-traveled corner at the southeast end of Rockport Village. (Read: Old friends propose new take on Rockport neighborhood: Workforce housing, gardens, and lots of children)
The Reinemanns are leasing the greenhouse and nursery space from the Smiths, and over the past winter, structural improvements have been made to the buildings.
While several of the greenhouses will remain open to the public, the hydroponic operations will be off limits. That’s because the plants are sensitive to outside contaminants; e.g., tomatoes are especially vulnerable to the tobacco Mosaic Virus, which can be introduced by cigarette smokers who have handled tobacco products.
Hydroponics is the cultivation of plants in a nutritious aqua-mineral solution, which is said to produce fast growing roots and ultimately, harvestable produce. The growth of a hydroponic plant is said to be 30 to 50 percent faster than that of a soil-grown plant.
Nancy Barker has been with Guini Ridge, for several years, lending her expertise in hydroponics to the Rockport venture. For 30 years, Barker and her late husband, Ernie, were pioneers in Maine cultivating hydroponically grown greens in their Washington greenhouse.
Hydroponics is a delicate operation, said Wendy.
It is likely that the hydroponics will not be in operation past December, given the long winter nights in Maine, which reduce available light to plants that require much light and warmth.
In the other greenhouses, flower, herb and vegetable seedlings, perennials and annuals will be available for retail sale. There will also be potting soil to buy, and containers and baskets for patios and proces.
Guini Ridge at Rockport is also going to offer a Do-It- Yourself plant potting center where one can create singular pots and baskets with seedlings and soil.
“Our expert staff will always be available to help you with ideas and information,” said Wendy. “For folks who still want a custom pot but cannot commit the time, we will be happy to build anything to one’s specifications.
During the summer, lamb and produce from the farm will also be Rockport, along with Brodis blueberries, Aldermere Farm beef and other regional farm products.
Eventually, there will be dinners under the arbor, classes on cultivating crops, perhaps an autumn festival with a cider press.
“We will be a destination place,” said Wendy.
They hope to invigorate the Hoboken location and become an integral part of the Rockport community, and they do it all with a love for agriculture. Wendy was formerly in product development at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, in Winslow, and now is committed the Midcoast Maine way of farming.
“We like growing things, and being connected to what you eat and where it comes from,” Wendy said.
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