Some Farmer's are born into it. Other Farmer's are drawn to it, as though the earth is in their blood. Ryan and Sarah Voiland are two such people. From the vegetable patch in his parents back yard to the thriving enterprise Red Fire Farm has become, their destiny is laid out in the land. To know your farmer is to know your food, at Red Fire Farm, fresh, flavorful and organic is the rule.
As a middle school student Ryan started his love of farming by tending his parent's vegetable garden in Montague. Soon after be built a farm stand at the end of their driveway. Success then led to his being certified as the youngest organic farmer in that state. A title he held for years.
He began selling his produce at the Greenfield Farmer's Market before he could even drive. His father would drop him off in the morning and pick him up when it was over. Eventually he was renting additional land for his crops.
When it came time for college he chose Cornell studying Fruit and Vegetable horticulture. He managed to keep his small farm working while there. By the time he graduated he was able to purchase the Granby Farmstead now known as Red Fire Farm.
Sarah Voiland grew up in Stafford Springs, CT. While attending Vassar she became interested and involved in Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA), being attracted by the positive environmental and social change they promote. Upon graduating she returned to Connecticut and set up a CSA known as Down to Earth Farm in her home town.
Several years ago the two kindred spirits met. After Ryan prepared her a meal of homemade tomato sauce over whole wheat pasta and salad of mixed greens he grew in the dead of winter, Sarah never looked back. Last year they married on the Far Away Little Hill Field section of their Granby Farm.
Recipes from Red Fire Farm
Together they are advocates for organic and healthy eating. He is considered an expert in his field and is consulted on an array of topics from growing potatoes to winter farming practices. He regularly teaches workshops at NOFA conferences in addition to running the Farm. Sarah manages the administrative side of their operation which includes personnel and communications. Anyone who has met her in person, read their newsletters or follows the farm on Facebook has enjoyed first hand her wit and passion. Their collective energy and dedication is infectious.
One of the many achievements they have to be proud of is mentoring new generations of farmer's. Listed in their Farm Philosophy is; "We recognize that our country is low on farmers (less than 2% of the total population)... Farming takes lots of people, particularly farming in ways that are more ecologically oriented. If we are going to rebuild our food system into a localvore food system we are going to need a lot more farmers! Most young adults who are interested in farming for a career don’t come from farming families, and thus are in need of farm skill training..." Each summer they hire up to 30 people to help with the peak of their crops. The group is considered an integral part of the Red Fire Farm Community. Both Ryan and Sarah speak with pride when they mention those who have gone on to start their own farms.
There always seems to be something exciting going on with at Red Fire Farm. As of this month a photo-voltaic array has been installed on the Granby property. This investment means that more than half of the electricity used on the farm is now solar powered. In addition to that, over the past year they have more than doubled their land base by securing the purchase ofthe adjacent Blue Meadow and Tuvek Farms in Montague. The sale includes about 10,000 square feet of greenhouse space and 110-acres. Close to half of their new acquisition is already planted with cover crops, a necessary three year investment before the land can be deemed suitable for growing organic vegetables.
The future holds infinite possibilities for the Voilands. Hard work, creativity and a commitment to sustainably farming healthy, local food are evident in all that they do. Visiting them at a farmer's market you get a glimpse through the sheer visual appeal of their displays. To experience it first hand, take part in one of their celebrations in Granby. If you have to chose one, make it the Tomato Festival. 2010 marks it's 10th anniversary. Fesivities run from noon to 5pm this Saturday August 28th, fun is to be had by all. After all, the chance to try 100 varieties of tomatoes does not come along every day!
The Red Fire Farm CSA is more than 1,000 members strong. This video tells more....
Find it Locally:
Red Fire Farm:
7 Carver Street Granby, MA 01033 (413) 467- 7645
Old Depot Gardens Farm Stand:
504 Turners Falls Rd Montague, MA 01351
Boston Farmers' Market
On Thursdays, 11:30-6:30 p.m. from May to October, you can visit us at the Boston Public Market at South Station. Find out more at the Boston Public Market website.
Springfield Farmers' Market
On Tuesdays, 12:30-6 p.m. from May to October, you can visit us at the you can visit us at the Springfield Farmers' Market.
We also offer CSA farm shares for pick-up at the Boston and Springfield markets.