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We'd like to share our thoughts here about how and why we farm the way we do. If you eat our food, you have a hand in what we create. You support it and keep it going. These are some of our guiding thoughts that motivate the farm and farmers, and help create our food.
The mission of Red Fire Farm is to be a year-round local source for high quality food and ornamental crops grown at our farm using organic principles that result in safe food and a healthy environment. Through innovative marketing strategies, we provide an exciting shopping experience and educate our community about the benefits of eating locally grown foods during all four seasons. We seek to achieve these goals for the community while providing fulfilling and sustainable careers for the farmers.
At Red Fire Farm we believe that there is a better way to farm than the chemical status quo that has dominated the American landscape and food system during the last half century. We believe that by working with the natural rhythms of the soil, plants, people and microorganisms we can grow excellent tasting food without the environmental and health risks that can accompany chemical intensive farming practices. We practice Certified Organic Farming and maintain certification with the Baystate Organic Certifiers which is an accredited certifier of the USDA Organic Certification program. We believe that organic certification helps assure that we make good decisions about our farming practices. We always seek to meet and exceed not only the letter of the organic farming rules, but also the intent. As organic farmers we never use chemical fertilizers, chemical pesticides or genetically modified plants. Instead we rely on things like compost, crop rotation and cover crops to keep our land and crops healthy and productive.
We believe that food is fundamental to everyone’s life (everyone has to eat!), and because of this our society should choose carefully how and where we produce our food. For environmental reasons we believe that it is imperative that local communities learn how to feed themselves from local and regional sources. Even though short term economics might make it cheaper to ship perishable produce across the country, we think that in the long term our planet and our communities will be healthier if they can rely on themselves for most of their food needs. We also know that locally grown food is fresher and tastes better! For these reasons we support and promote the idea of the localvore diet. In addition to the produce that we grow in our fields, we also source other locally grown and produced foods for sale in our farm stands and as part of our CSA shares. And we strive to buy our farm's supplies and services from local vendors whenever possible. This helps stimulate the local food economy.
We realize that it is a little harder to eat locally during the cold Massachusetts winters, but we know from our own root cellar and pantry of preserves that it is not impossible. In our farming we are seeking ways to scale up our production of winter greens and root cellar storage so that we can grow and preserve plenty of produce for our entire membership. We now offer a deep winter CSA share and look forward to being able to do even more winter farming in the future!
The importance of preserving our region's best farmland relates directly back to the idea of our region being able to grow its own food. Without good land, farming is pretty much impossible. Farmland that is paved or made into suburban houses and lawns can not easily be returned back to a productive condition. We also think that farm land and open space contribute to the overall well being of any community. Farms and forests can be critical to preserving the purity of our water resources, they support wildlife and they provide places for hiking, biking and bird watching among other outdoor activities. We believe that every effort should be made to keep farm land from being developed, and also that mechanisms must be developed for making farm land affordable to new generations of farmers.
We recognize that our country is low on farmers (less than 2% of the total population) and that of these few remaining farmers most of them are nearing or past the normal retirement age. 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 in addition to farmland access. At Red Fire Farm we attempt to provide opportunities for farm skill building amongst our staff.
Since we think agriculture is such an important part of our community, as farmers we seek to be integral and active members of our community. We feel that Community Supported Agriculture helps build community around the fundamental act of eating. We also seek to organize our farm in such a way that we can support low income people and help make local organic food available to everyone. Annually we donate over $90,000 worth of produce to food relief organizations in the Boston and Western MA areas.
In addition to our plowing and planting work we also make time to reach out and participate in our broader community. We frequently give agriculturally related presentations at schools, conferences, churches and community events. Ryan also participates in the broader sustainable agriculture community as a board member of the non profit Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), and also as a grant reviewer for the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture and Research and Education (SARE) group.
We could not be successful farmers if we did not believe in hard work. The demands of farming tend to be constant and multi-faceted. Plants keep growing (even during the weekend) and must be taken care of on their schedules. Some would say that we work too hard, but we feel that it is worth it because we feel so passionately about the importance of what we do!
-Ryan and Sarah