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The seeds of Red Fire Farm started growing way back with a few wagon loads of pumpkins, hand-picked berries and other gatherings of the young Ryan Voiland and his crew of siblings. Since then, Ryan has learned many things and been able to grow acres of produce and his organic farm business to a significant source of local food for our region.
Red Fire Farm currently farms two pieces of farmland, one in Granby, MA and one in Montague, MA. The two properties allow more effective soil building and crop rotation than could be achieved on either piece individually. Each location has a history and story of its own.
Red Fire Farm began on a 50 acre piece of land located in southern Hampshire County on the corners of Taylor and Carver streets in Granby, MA. The land had been fallow for a few years, with some recent use in pumpkins and a distant history as a dairy and potato farm.
In 2001, Ryan Voiland purchased the property from the Hatch/Lyman family. As part of this sale the Commonwealth of Massachusetts purchased the development rights for the farmland, assuring that the property will forever be used as farm land. This also made it affordable for a young and landless farmer to purchase the property and get a start as a full time farmer.
As he started the business, Ryan needed a name. He looked into the history of the place and found that in 1922, a lightning strike fire burned the original barn and farmhouse structures to the ground. Our current barn and farmhouse were rebuilt right after that at the end of the American Chestnut era. The main barn is an impressive structure originally built with dairy cows and hay storage in mind. The beams are made of chestnut and held together with wooden pegs. When naming the farm, Ryan chose “Red Fire Farm” partly to remember that fire event, and also because ‘New Red Fire’ is the name of his favorite red leaf lettuce variety.
Since Ryan purchased the barn in 2001 a slow but steady transformation has occurred. A farm stand area has been added and the cow stanchions replaced with a walk in cooler for storing produce and selling local products like cheese and sauerkraut. Parts of the barn have also been rebuilt into vegetable washing and packing spaces.
The farm also rents several nearby fields for growing vegetables that are within a 1 mile radius of the farm yard. All of the Granby fields are within the Stony Brook watershed with several branches of the Stony Brook running adjacent to the growing fields. Fields of flat vegetable soils and upland pasture make the farm as picturesque as it is productive
Located at 172 Meadow Road in Montague Center this 110 acre farm is in the heart of the rich Montague meadows. The soils in this part of Montague are rich alluvial soils that were deposited by the glacial melt flooding of the nearby Connecticut and Sawmill rivers. The fields are classified primarily as Hadley and Agawam soil series, which are considered to be among the most fertile soils in the world for growing vegetables!
The farmstead dates back to at least the 1800’s. The farmstead consists of a large hay barn with a big vegetable packing wing, two tobacco barns and a classic New England farm house. Until 2009 the farm has been owned by the Tuvek family. The land over the years has been rented out to a variety of farmers including stints growing cucumbers for pickles, tobacco and a multitude of other vegetables. With the sale of the property to Red Fire Farm in 2009, Ryan and Sarah transitioned the land to certified organic practices.
Over the next year, the farm was able to organize purchase of the next-door property, the previous location of Blue Meadow Nurseries. Blue Meadow used to grow specialty perennial plants for gardens in some beautiful greenhouses that were empty for about 7 years after that business closed. Red Fire Farm is now using those same greenhouses to grow plants for the fields, and for other farms and garden centers in the area.
The Montague farmland and nearby rented fields now grow about half of the produce for Red Fire Farm and help give the farm a better cover crop rotation.