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Excitement builds for annual Tomato Festival

Chicopee Herald photo by Paula Canning
By Paula Canning

Staff Writer

GRANBY Although the event is nearly a month away, anticipation for Red Fire Farm's Fifth annual Tomato Festival is growing stronger by the day, according to Deb Andre, director of the festival and manager of the farm stand.

"People come in every day asking when it is," Andre said.

Andre explained that their excitement is most likely fueled by the event's main attraction -- the tomato tasting -- which allows visitors to sample over 50 varieties of heirloom and hybrid tomatoes.

"People can never believe all of the variety," she said.

Some of the varieties of tomatoes featured at the event this year include Brandy Wine, Hungarian Heart, Bloody Butcher, Green Sausate, and Green Zerbram, among many others.

She said that of the many different kinds of tomatoes, Brandy Wine seems to be "the most captivating."

"People just love the taste of it," she said.

She said that customers tend to be "very impressed" with all of the heirloom tomatoes.

"They're always totally surprised by the colors, and the great taste," Andre said.

In addition to tomatoes, the farm also offers a variety of other vegetables, including six different kinds of carrots, five different types of eggplants, as well as at least a half dozen varieties of peppers, and potatoes.

She said that, although the farm's production of fruits is "not in full swing," it recently planted raspberries. The farm does carry fruits from other local farms in the Pioneer Valley.

"We'll have pretty much anything you can imagine at the festival," she said.

Another component to the festival will be a "Tomato Trot," a 5 kilometer race through the farm's fields, in which there are prizes for first, second and third place finishes.

Last year, Andre said that 82 people participated in the race.

In addition to the Tomato Trot, Andre said the event will also feature wagon ride tours of the Red Fire Farm fields and tomato patch, a visit from chef Christina Pirello, host of the show "Christina Cooks," who will cook a variety of healthy dishes that will be available for sampling, and a home grown tomato contest in which visitors can bring their own garden tomato to be judged for its flavor and appearance.

Food and refreshments will be available throughout the day, and a variety of vendors will also be participating in the festival.

Entertainment will be provided by Valerie & Walter Crockett of Worcester, who will be playing bluegrass and country music.

Last year, the event attracted over 1,000 people, Andre said.

She added that the 60-acre Red Fire Farm, which prides itself on offering a variety of organically grown vegetables, opened in 2001, when it was acquired by owner Ryan Voiland.

She said the farm offers over 300 different varieties each season of vegetables, plants, and berries, which are sold at the farm or distributed to locations in Greenfield, Springfield and Montague.

According Andre, the farm participates in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, an arrangement that allows individuals to purchase shares of the farm at the start of the growing season and, in exchange, receive a share of the farm's harvest.

The farm is open daily from 9:30 a.m. until dusk, from May 1 to the end of October.

The Tomato Festival will take place on Aug. 28. Admission to the Tomato Festival is $4. Cost to participate in the Tomato Trot is $12, which begins at 10:30 a.m., followed by the Festival at 12 p.m.

The Red Fire Farm is located at 7 Carver Street. For more information, contact the farm at (413) 467- SOIL or visit