|By Lori O'Brien|
GRANBY Approaching Red Fire Farm's signature farm stand, the delicate smell of fresh cut flowers engulfed the warm afternoon air on a recent weekday visit.
Red Fire Farm's owner Ryan Voiland said he enjoys creating the ambience of his farm stand as well as relishes the fruits of his labor each day. Along with 20 hired hands, Voiland is currently spending countless hours picking a host of fruits and vegetables from his 50-acre farm on Carver Street.
During an interview with Reminder Publications, Voiland was hard pressed to single out his favorite part of farming since he "gets a kick out of orchestrating everything." He added that farming requires a host of different skills which in its sum total makes life on the farm always interesting.
At press time, Voiland and his staff are harvesting summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, carrots and onions. In addition, a variety of greenhouse heirloom tomatoes are ripe for the picking including a popular variety called Buffalo Red. For persons who enjoy cooking with fresh herbs, there is also an abundance to choose from including garlic, basil and cilantro.
All of Voiland's offerings are organically grown which is good news for area residents who prefer not to consume fruits and vegetables that have been subjected to chemicals, synthetic pesticides or herbicides.
Red Fire Farm also participates in Community Signature Agriculture (CSA), an arrangement that allows area residents to buy into the farm at the start of the growing season and in exchange receive a share of the farm's harvest. Shares are distributed each week throughout the season, according to Voiland.
This year, Voiland is growing produce on 20 of the 50 acres and markets his products not only at the farm stand in town but at the Springfield Farmers Market on Tuesdays from 12:30 to 6 p.m., as well as through local wholesale accounts, CSA, and a farm stand in Montague. The farm stand in town is open daily.
"Fresh produce is stocked each morning, usually by 10 a.m., and the stand remains open on a self-serve basis until dusk," said Voiland.
Voiland expects to harvest produce for 350 CSA members this year, and there is still time to sign up for shares which would be pro-rated since the growing season is well underway. Each share consists of between eight and 17 pounds of mixed harvested produce each week that matches the needs of one's household.
"We specialize in diversity," said Voiland, as he explained that he grows more than 300 varieties of vegetables, berries, plants and flowers, including 60 varieties alone of tomatoes.
"We take tomatoes very seriously," said Voiland. "We pick tomatoes fully ripe from the vine in order to let the flavor develop to the very best richness."
Additional produce of certain crops including peas, beans, cherry tomatoes, herbs and cut flowers are also available to CSA members for pick-your-own at no additional cost.
In addition to the CSA program, Voiland also offers a Granby Stand Membership Program which for $180 entitles a purchaser to $200 in credit at the farm stand in town. Additional credit can be purchased at $90 for $100 credit.
"You can then stop at the stand any day and select produce as well as other locally produced items such as bread, pickles, honey, maple syrup or any of the other items that we sell at the stand," said Voiland. "You will need only to mark down the value of the items you select on your ledger page."
A mixture of salad greens are also available daily at the farm stand in town.
From dawn to dusk, Voiland spends time laboring over the farm duties and loves every minute of it. In fact, he said he knew by the time he was in middle school he would ultimately pursue agriculture for his career field. As part of Voiland's farm purchase in 2001, the state acquired the development rights for the farmland, assuring that the property will always be used as farmland, according to Voiland.
Next month, the Red Fire Farm will be the setting for the annual Tomato Festival & Tomato Trot which attracts more than 1,000 area residents each year.
In the coming weeks, Voiland will also be harvesting apples, pumpkins, watermelons, peaches, peppers, eggplant, celery, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes and gourds to name just a few.
For more information on the Red Fire Farm, visit www.redfirefarm.com.