Ryan Voiland began his farming career when he was a middle school student living with his parents in Montague, MA. With the encouragement and support of his father and mother, he opened a small stand in front of the house where he sold wild berries that he picked. Over the course of high school Ryan took over and expanded the family garden with plans to grow more vegetables for his farm stand. By the time he reached college, Ryan was renting additional farm land and selling his produce at farmer’s markets and to wholesale customers in addition to the Montague farm stand.
After graduating from Cornell University with a degree in Fruit and Vegetable horticulture in 2000, Ryan pursued his goal of securing a permanent property for his farm business. With financing assistance from the Farm Service Agency (a department of the U.S. government) and Farm Credit East, Ryan purchased the Granby farmstead.
Ryan has now been farming in Granby for 15 years, and it has been 25 years since he took over his parent’s garden and became an organic farmer. Ryan is delighted that his passion for growing organic food continues to make a positive impact on the local food supply.
Sarah Voiland grew up in Stafford Springs CT, one of the most rural parts of that state. As an environmental studies major at Vassar College, she first learned about Community Supported Agriculture when she joined the college sponsored Poughkeepsie Farm Project CSA. Inspired by all of the positive environmental and social change that CSA’s encourage, Sarah decided after graduating that she should become a farmer herself. She started a small community supported agriculture farm called Down to Earth in her home town of Stafford on the land of a family friend. After meeting (and dating!) Ryan for a couple of years, Sarah decided to transfer Down to Earth’s management to other CSA members, and began working at Red Fire Farm in 2007.
History of Red Fire Farm
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.
Granby Farm History
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
Red Fire Farm at Montague Meadows
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.