Boston Local Food Festival

Presented by Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts

Red Fire Farm ensures the future of farming in western Massachusetts

When you eat heirloom tomatoes raised on Ryan and Sarah Voiland’s RedFireFarm, based on land in Granby and Montague, you’re eating some of the same varieties, raised in the same lush fields, that have been farmed for two hundred years. What’s more, by supporting this organic farm through its many CSAs, farm stands and market booths, you are helping to ensure the future of farming in western Massachusetts.

When Ryan Voiland began the farm by purchasing land in Granby, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts bought the development rights, ensuring that the land will always be used for farming. Today, in partnership with the Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, Red Fire Farm supports a Whole Farm Affordability Campaign, a land and farming infrastructure preservation program that makes farming more affordable for young farmers, like Ryan and Sarah Voiland were when they were just starting out.

As Sarah Voiland explains, a program called the Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program, or APR, allows those who own farmland to divide their property between land with buildings and land suitable for farming, so they can be sold separately. “While this program was developed to protect agricultural land from being built upon, the effect has been to raise the cost of the homes, making them difficult for new farmers to purchase,” says Voiland. Country homes that have been divided in this way, or “APR’d,” are bought by people who don’t want to farm: they just want to live in farmland. Meanwhile the surrounding acreage, protected from development, is sold and rented to local farmers, “but the farmers do not have access to the infrastructure that was originally part of the family farm,” says Voiland. This infrastructure includes a home where farmers can live near their crops and livestock, and barns and other outbuildings necessary to farm work. The Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust buys land that has been APR’d, sells the buildings to farmers, and leases the land to them on 99-year terms. This arrangement ensures that the homes and other buildings on farmsteads remain affordable to farmers, that the land will be protected for farming use in the future, and gives farmers the land security to invest in the years-long processes of building up soil and becoming USDA-certified organic.

All of the produce of Red Fire Farm, including pastured chicken eggs, are certified organic. Boston area residents can buy Red Fire Farm produce through one of their CSAs, with pickup locations in Brighton, Cambridge, Jamaica Plain, and Somerville. Summer shares are still available, and you can sign up for fall and winter shares, to get weekly distributions of freshly picked, locally raised, certified organic garden vegetables all year long. Red Fire Farm has a booth at the Tuesday and Thursday farmers market on the Rose Kennedy Greenway near South Station, through November, and will be vending at the Boston Local Food Festival on October 1. Expect to see the bounty of late summer at the Food Festival, with selections of beets, carrots, turnips, salad mix, arugula, onions, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, winter squashes, and hot peppers, the last of the summer’s tomatoes, and apples from a local orchard that are grown using low-spray methods. Red Fire Farm even grows and sells flowers, which are also certified organic.

In addition to selling directly to consumers, Red Fire Farm sells their produce to a few specialty groceries including Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge and South End, Sherman Market in Somerville, and Harvest Co-op in Cambridge, and to local restaurants including Henriettas Table in Cambridge and Diesel Cafe in Davis Square, Somerville.


This post was written by featured blogger Justin Cascio.  Check out his blog Justin Wants to Feed You and follow him on Twitter @LikeTheWatch.

Posted by: Nicola on September 6, 2011 @ 9:47 am
Filed under: Blog