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Tomato Planting Tips for the Home Gardener

Posted by: on May 18, 2014 | One Comment

It’s tomato planting season!  We have been busy putting early season tomato plants in our greenhouses, and gearing up our bedding plants to be sold at markets and stands.  Some of our most popular garden plants are our juicy, colorful tomatoes.  While it can be fun and simple to grow your own tomatoes, they do have their quirks.  We thought we’d share some of our tomato planting tips with you, the home gardener!

Start with Good Soil

To begin, it’s important to know that soil quality is key for growing healthy tomato plants.  They are most happy where they can get full sunlight in fertile, nutrient rich soil.  Spreading compost is a very effective way to give your tomato plants a healthy environment.  You can buy it at garden centers, or make your own at home.

If you’d like to test your soil to find out the pH and how you are doing for nutrients, Umass offers soil tests. Their “Routine Soil Analysis” for Home Grounds and Gardens, currently $15, is a great basic test for home gardens and will give you recommended rates for how much fertilizer and lime to apply.

Compost in the making

Timing Your Planting

In Massachusetts, it is usually safe to plant your tomatoes outdoors towards the middle or end of May, keeping an eye out for frost to protect them as needed.  Memorial Day weekend is the classic time for planting tomatoes. Tomato plants can be transplanted as late as the end of June and still have time to ripen their fruits before fall cold arrives.

How to Plant

When you are ready to plant your tomatoes, dig a hole in the ground, deep enough to cover the base of the plant and all its roots. You can mix compost into the hole, or fertilize the whole area.  Settle the plant in, fill in the hole around the plant, and pick off any leaves towards the bottom of the plant that are touching the ground.  If your plants have a “leggy” look (their stems are overgrown), you can plant them on their side in a trench with just the top point and a few leaves above ground (remove any leaves that will be underground).  Tomato plants grow roots from anywhere along their stem, so they will straighten themselves upright a few days after planting.  Place tomato plants 18’’-36’’ apart from each other.  If you have had problems with cutworms in your garden, you can try protecting your tomatoes using a collar around the base of the plant such as a paper cup or toilet paper roll.  Once your plant is nestled in the soil bed, pat down the soil, and water it in to secure its placement.

Support Systems

Tomato plants grow wildly; they would sprawl all over the ground if you let them.  You can let them do this, however, it is often preferable to give them some standing support, so the tomato fruits do not end up compressed on the ground or scalded by sun.  If you only have a few plants, you may want to buy cages like these that you can place around each plant, or make some out of concrete reinforcement wire.

Stake & Weave Method – sandwiching the plants between string

Another option is to use a stake & weave method, which is what we use for our tomatoes.  Secure wooden stakes deeply in the ground (roughly the height of your future plants) about every three plants in your row of tomatoes.  Using a thick string that will last the season, go down the row at the level of the current growth, looping the string tightly around each stake, and then go back down the other side, effectively sandwiching the plants between a string on each side.  We find it effective to string a row along the bottom of the plants, another one along the middle, and a final one along the top, as they grow.  The string should be pulled tight to provide a stable structure for the plants to stand within.

To Prune or Not to Prune

As your plants grow, you will notice them growing “suckers”.  These are new growing points that grow in the “v” between the main stem and lateral branches.  Suckers will eventually grow and produce fruit.  You can pinch suckers off to prevent your plants from getting top heavy, and to focus the plant’s energy on the main stem.  Pinching the suckers will mean fewer, but larger fruits.  We only do this for our greenhouse tomatoes, and don’t find it necessary in the field. If you are going to prune, only prune indeterminate varieties of tomatoes (most types, see labels at the stands or look up your variety online). Determinate varieties grow only so long and set their fruit all at once – some paste tomatoes, for example, are determinate – so you will prune away part of your total yields if you remove suckers.

Diseases and Late Blight Resistant Tomatoes

Late Blight – the scourge of 2009, seems to return every year now

Tomatoes are fairly vulnerable plants in our climate.  There are many diseases to watch out for, some you can prevent, and others you just have to cross your fingers and hope you don’t get.  Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot are common problems that many tomato farmers in the area experience every year. These two diseases slowly kill the foliage of the plants.  Early Blight is a disease that overwinters in the soil, so rotating the tomato placement in your garden each year can help.

Late Blight now seems to come every year to our area towards the latter part of tomato season, and when it arrives makes quick work of the foliage and the fruits of the plants.

We sell quite a few Late Blight resistant tomato plants that we recommend mixing into your garden plot to add variety and prevent against the loss of all of your tomato fruits, should blight happen to find a home in your garden.

Our Late Blight Resistant tomato plant varieties are:

  • Defiant
  • Mountain Magic Cherry
  • Iron Lady – also resistant to Early Blight and Septoria Leaf Spot. Which basically means you should grow this tomato.
  • Plum Regal Paste
  • Matt’s Wild Cherry

Look for them at our farm stands over the next few weeks as you begin your planting. Each one is its own unique variety with its own unique fruit. Matt’s Wild, for example, has little red fruits that have excellent tomato flavor and cherry tomato sweetness, often a contest winner!

Blossom-end Rot is another common problem.  This is caused by low calcium intake due to uneven moisture or to low levels of calcium in the soil.

Be sure to water your tomato plants regularly if nature isn’t keeping up, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings.  You want to provide your plants with constant water, yet not create a soggy soil.  Try not to water from above; aim your sprinkler at the base of the plant to keep the leaves dry.  Airborne diseases are more likely to infect wet leaves.

Some tomatoes will have a split skin or begin to crack.  This can happen when there is a sudden change in moisture (after a period of extended dry weather), or when the fruit is overripe.  Not to worry though, split skin tomatoes are still perfectly healthy and delicious to eat if you get to them quickly.

If you see a disease or problem on your plant and would like to identify it, a great resource is the Vegetable MD page at Cornell.

Harvest Time

As your plants bear fruit, harvest the tomatoes when they are in their expected full color and size.  Then onto culinary feats!  Tomatoes can be used in all sorts of ways in the kitchen.  Some are delectable sliced raw into salads, while others are designed for making sauces.  Check out our recipes to find unusual ways of cooking with tomatoes. Do note that tomatoes lose flavor when refrigerated, so keep them on your counter instead!

More About Variety Selection

We typically grow 150 varieties of tomatoes, many of which have won awards!  From slicing, heirloom, cherry to paste, our tomatoes come in all sorts of shades, and have all sorts of flavors.

Our recommendations for a good red slicing tomato are Jet Star and Big Beef.  For heirlooms and specialty tomatoes, try a mix of colors and types. Brandywine and Wapsipinicon Peach both have won awards for flavor at our farm.  If you’re looking to make sauce, choose a paste tomato variety, bred to cook down quicker with less juice and more meat;  Federle is a great heirloom, and San Marzano is very productive.  For a simple snacking tomato, we love Sungold Cherry Tomatoes. Having a mix in the garden is the most fun.

If seeking low-acid tomatoes, try Pork Chop- a yellow tomato, Jet Star – a red slicer, San Marzano – a paste tomato, or Sungolds for nice golden yellow cherries.

If you like tomato salads, growing a selection of tomatoes with different colors can make a stunning salad. Try Green Zebra, Black Prince, Cherokee Purple, Striped German, and Gary Ibsen’s Gold.

These and many more varieties – that we have taste-tested and field-tested at our farm – can be found at either of our farmstands in Granby and Montague as well as at our summer farmers’ markets, Tuesdays in Springfield, Northampton and Boston, and Thursdays in Stoneham.

May you have a bountiful harvest!

Helping Monarch Butterflies with a Butterfly Garden

Posted by: on May 2, 2014 | No Comments

Butterflies bring joy to the garden – and you can make much needed habitat for them! Plants that butterflies love have flowers with lots of nectar, as that is food for butterflies. Not all flowers make good nectar sources; these ones below are especially rich in it. We carry these varieties and more at our farmstands over the month of May and into June. Many of these flowers are frost sensitive, so we will be stocking them in mid May.

A few key tips for butterfly gardens:

  • Plant nectar-rich flower varieties
  • Multiple plants of the same kind in one spot are easier for a butterfly to see
  • Choose host plants for the caterpillars of butterflies, like Milkweed for Monarchs, Lupine for Painted Ladies, Snapdragons for Buckeyes
  • Butterfly nectar plants are also great for honey bees and other beneficials, bringing pollination and protection to the rest of your garden

If you know only one butterfly, it is most likely the Monarch! Monarch butterflies especially need our help in providing nectar plants and safe habitats for caterpillars. Many of their previous safe grounds for feeding and laying eggs have been diminished by increased use of GMO glyphosate resistant soy and corn, or plowed over to grow government-subsidized corn for biofuels. Parking lots, roads, and front lawns have also replaced the sweet fields of wild flowers necessary for a healthy butterfly population. Read more about what is happening with Monarchs and what we can do.

One critical plant for the survival of the Monarch butterfly is milkweed. Monarch butterflies only lay their eggs on milkweed and the caterpillars will only feed on this kind of plant. We have found a native variety that also has beautiful flowers and fall seed pods.


Above is Butterfly Milkweed, or Asclepias Tuberosa. It’s a bright orange wild flower that loves full sunlight and fairs well in dryer soil. Monarchs migrate north to lay their eggs and will only lay eggs on milkweeds such as this one. Seeing a chrysalis on a milkweed plant is a rare joy, something we should all get a chance to see.


Some of the other plants we grow that butterflies love:

Buddeleia Butterfly Bush: A woody shrub with fragrant lilac blooms that attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and beneficials. Lovely at the back of borders for its height and arching shape. Perennial.

Verbena Bonareisis: Tall, beautiful and purple. An excellent cut flower. Clusters of tiny flowers on top of a long stem that Butterflies love to land on.


Coreopsis: A bright blooming flower that does well in full sun. Perennial.

Marigolds: Bright colors that not only attract butterflies but also repel aphids from your garden. Annual.

Snapdragons: These attract butterflies and provide food for Buckeye butterfly caterpillars. The make beautiful cut flowers as well. Annual.

Bee Balm

Monarda (Red Bee Balm and Purple Wild Bergamot): A fragrant, fun and quirky flower. Grows tall and is also a favorite of hummingbirds. Edible for us too! Perennial.

Sweet Alyssum: This flower smells like honey and butterflies and bees enjoy the sweet scent. You will too! Growing in white and light pink. A perfect spring flower that loves cooler weather. Annual.

Echinacea: This flower is drought tolerant and makes an excellent addition to any bouquet. Also known for its healing properties. Perennial.


Salvia Gruppenblau: Shorter, fragrant blue spires that attract hummingbirds also. Great for drying! Perennial.

Cosmos: Idyllic, wispy flowers with long skinny stems. Annual.

Gomphrena: A shooting plant with spikey flowers perfect for drying. Butterflies love to dance around from flower to flower. Annual.

Cleome: Also known as spider flower, this flower is unlike any other. We feature it in many of our summer time bouquets. The large exploding flowers gain everyone’s attention, especially wandering butterflies. Annual.


Ellagance Lavender: Highly fragrant low growing purple flowers. Many uses. Perennial.

Zinnia: One of summer’s most colorful features. Will bloom into the fall! Makes a great cut flower and can be featured in single variety bouquets. Annual.

Yarrow: Large flat-top flower heads on ferny foliage make clouds of color all summer long. A mix of colors on drought tolerant plants. Superb for cutting, and drying as well.


Come visit us at the farmstands in Granby and Montague for even more varieties! Keep an eye out for our poster at the stands that highlights these butterfly flowers, and also read the plant descriptions on display to learn more about each plant.


Best wishes in the garden this summer!


Cabbage Harvest Story and Sauerkraut Recipe

Posted by: on Dec 6, 2013 | 2 Comments

Brassica oleracea capitata. Latin for cabbage. From a wild cabbage, through centuries of breeding and selection, came many food crops in the brassica family that we eat today… broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, bok choy. This family is very important on our farm, as many of the crops are hardy to the cold and help us extend the season of local food.

Hamida with two cabbages in the field. These would make a great batch of kraut!


This time of year, hopefully before we get weather in the low teens or below, we are harvesting the cabbage for winter storage.  When the big fall cabbages start rolling in, it’s also the time we start to make sauerkraut in earnest at our house. You can make it too. You can find our organic cabbage at our winter farmers’ markets, with Bulk Order for pickup around Massachusetts, and in our CSA farm shares.

First we harvest the cabbage into rows. Then it goes air-born. Zeinab catches cabbage to fill up the pallet bins.

Sauerkraut is German for “sour cabbage.” Though I would describe the flavor as tangy instead – likely from the high vitamin C content. Sauerkraut is lacto-fermented, meaning the food is made with the help of naturally occurring beneficial bacteria that create a lactic acid environment. Eating this live food is good for your health, because of the live cultures, increased nutrient availability, and beneficial compounds. Read more about the health benefits from some of our local kraut makers – Real Pickles. And more on wikipedia.

It’s one of my goals over time to weave the making of sauerkraut and fermented foods into my life year round. The flavors and health aspects are so compelling. I’ve found sauerkraut makes a good place to start, as it is simple, and very worthwhile.

How to Make Sauerkraut

  1. Chop cabbage to desired size for eating
  2. Salt to taste, and then squeeze or pound to get the water moving out of the cabbage. You can mix in flavorings at this point. See below for ideas!
  3. Pack cabbage tightly into a clean non-reactive container, pushing it down so that liquid rises above the vegetables. You can add water if needed. We usually weigh down the kraut in our glass jar with another smaller glass jar filled with water that nestles inside the mouth of the main jar, then cover the whole setup with a cloth or napkin to keep dust and bugs out of the opening.
  4. Let sit out on a counter, and taste often until you like the flavor, then put in the fridge to slow the ferment. Skim off any mold that forms on the surface (it’s okay, just remove it). Make sure the liquid level is above the vegetables when you check it, as you want to keep the process anaerobic. You can add more brine (2 tbs salt per quart water works). If the top layer gets exposed to air and looks bad, remove a layer, often it is perfect and smelling good underneath. Don’t put in direct sun like these photos, as UV rays kill your beneficial bacteria.

    Red cabbage sauerkraut.

I like the freshness and crunch of the cabbage at the 3-5 days stage, but we usually let it go longer to develop more tang and flavor over 2 weeks or so. Taste as you go and eat some when you like it! You can have cabbage ferment at a much slower pace in a cooler environment – this is how lacto-fermentation was used as long term storage for many foods to help people get through the winter. That is essentially what you are doing when you put it into the fridge as well, slowing down the ferment. But it keeps going and stays alive, and will hold a very long time in your refrigerator.

For the amount of salt, Ryan just wings it. Fermentation master Sandor Katz says, “In most ferments, including vegetables, salting can be done to taste, without any need for measuring.” He also says that commercial sauerkraut makers use 1.5-2 tsp salt for each pound of chopped cabbage. You can ferment without salt, though salt helps keep vegetables crunchy, brings water out, and makes a more secure environment for lactic acid bacteria (ones you want!).

Sauerkraut with caraway seeds. The weight jar is covered by a napkin and the cover is secured below the rim of the large jar in case of dust or bugs. Kinda makeshift.


If you’d like to flavor your sauerkraut…
Lately we are fond of caraway seeds, they add such dimension to the taste of sauerkraut, nuttiness and aromas. Some other fun options… juniper berries, dill seeds, celery seeds, ginger, hot pepper flakes, turmeric, apples, cranberries, sweet white wine, oregano, other vegetables. Go exploring!

Another way to go is to make Kimchi, which tends to be cabbage with a mix of vegetables and includes some hot pepper. Here’s a kimchi recipe from Amy, one of our members.



How to Eat It

This time of year we are starting new batches soon after one finishes, and eating them right quick. You are likely to see me eating sauerkraut or something lacto-fermented at any meal of the day now that we are in the groove. Wally likes to snack on it! I am fond of putting it out with a bit of other snacks like carrots and cheese as a finger food or lunch. Raw is best as you get the probiotics. It tops salads, goes along with any meal on the side, and dresses up sandwiches. Great with breakfast eggs and toast. And on bagels with cream cheese. Basically you can eat it anywhere is what I’m saying here. More versatile than ketchup! And it will save you from scurvy.

Further Reading
If you want to delve deeper into the fascinations of lactofermentation I recommend Sandor Katz’s books, Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation. If you have read any other good ones, please share in the comments!

Here is a larger batch sauerkraut recipe on Sandor Katz’s website.

If you add water at some point to keep your liquid level up, beware of chlorine. Chlorinated water can cause problems for fermentation, as chlorine kills your beneficial bacteria. If you have chlorinated water, you can boil it in an open pot to evaporate the chlorine, then cool it to room temperature (so hot water doesn’t kill desired microbes). You can also let it sit in an open container for a few days, and the chlorine will evaporate. Or you can filter it with charcoal filters.

Glass jars are a good container as they are non-reactive. I got some larger half gallon Ball jars that fit right into the fridge after fermenting on the counter. You can use quart jars or whatever you have. We also do bigger batches in food-safe plastic buckets.

I read recently in Katz’s book about a woman who uses the old style canning jars with glass lids and rubber seals to ferment – she says that she can close the jar and the gases of fermentation escape through the seal when the pressure builds, but it is sealed, so nothing gets in, and she has no incidence of mold. Sounds worth trying.


 Bringing in the Harvest

There’s Max pulling in a bin of cabbage. After harvest, we bring the bins in and store some in our root cellar for the winter. Storage varieties of cabbage will last months in the right conditions. We have a good amount of it this year! Please take some off our hands and make sauerkraut!



Bulk Order Online

Winter CSA Sign Up

Winter Farmers’ Market details

What’s Cooking – Our Farmers Share Their Thanksgiving Recipes

Posted by: on Nov 18, 2013 | No Comments

Around the farm we’re all thinking about the best dishes we can make for our families with the abundance of organic vegetables we’ve been helping to grow all season. It’s fun and satisfying to make an original dish for our families and friends with the vegetables we have so lovingly planted, tended, harvested, stored and washed.

You can find our produce right now at the Winter Farmers’ Markets, in our Winter CSA, and as Bulk Orders for parties or storage.

Let’s see what’s cooking … 

Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Leila harvesting thyme on a beautiful November day.


Leila, our Georgia native, will be flying back home with a bag of Brussels sprouts this Friday so she can make bacon Brussels sprouts for her family. How she does it? First she fries bacon in a pan, she then removes the bacon and cuts it into bits. Next she sautés the Brussels sprouts in the bacon grease. Last, she adds the bacon bits to the plate of cooked Brussels. Simple, easy, and delicious!






Beet Rosti 

Christina and Kristi enjoy their lunch break in front of our House fields.

Kristi, our Wholesale and Logistics Manager, recommends trying beet rosti as an appetizer this holiday. “The rosemary is a really nice light flavor with the deep dark flavor of the beet” she says.

4-6 red beets (peeled and grated)
2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
1/2 cup flour
2 tbs butter

Grate beets and toss with rosemary and 1/4 cup flour. Toss thoroughly and then add the remaining flour. Heat butter at medium/high heat until golden brown in skillet. Add beet mixture to skillet and press firmly with spatula. Cook for 8-10 minutes. To Flip: remove patty from pan with spatula and slide onto new plate. Put an additional plate on top of patty and turn over so that the patty falls cooked side up onto new plate. Use spatula to slide patty off plate and back onto pan. Cook remaining 10 minutes or until brown. Can be served hot or cold.

Caramelized Shallots 

Kristi will also be featuring caramelized shallots on her Thanksgiving table this year. In fact, they were the first to come to her mind when thinking about holiday dishes.

Saute shallots and a few tablespoons sugar on medium heat in unsalted butter. Add a bit of red wine vinegar and salt, cook until brown. Then place sauté pan in the oven and roast until juicy and tender.

9″ Butternut Squash Pie

Packing Supervisor Rich with a purple cauliflower.

Our Packing Supervisor, Rich, says he’s excited to try a variation of the pumpkin pie this year, using butternut squash.

1 9” pie plate
2 cups of butternut squash puree
1 ½ cups of creamy coconut milk, some people use a 12 oz can of evaporated milk
¾ cup of sweetener, sugar molasses, honey, whichever
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon of ground ginger
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 large eggs or egg substitute (my favorite is soaked flax seeds 1 tablespoon of ground seeds to 3 tablespoons of water soak until gelatinous.)
1 pie crust (unbaked)

Mix spices and salt together in a bowl then add the eggs (or substitute) and pumpkin puree, mix thoroughly and fill the (unbaked) pie crust. Cook at 400 for 15 minutes then turn down the temperature to 350 for 40 to 50 minutes, until you can stick a toothpick into the pies center without it coming out covered in gelatinous pumpkin mixture. Cool on a rack. Serve. With whipped cream. And other pies.

See more seasonal recipes on the blog.

We hope everyone has a delicious holiday filled with fresh and tasty New England vegetables!

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Posted by: on Aug 31, 2013 | No Comments

What you might read about here below….

Lovely Tomato Recipes…. including ways to preserve tomatoes (Bulk Order Tomatoes Here)

Tomato Tasting Results from the Tomato Festival. The votes are in…

Tomato Trot Race Results.

…Read on

The festival scene, and on the left our wonderful Event Organizer Maria Lane who made it all happen.

We just wrapped on Tomato Festival 2013. Thank you to all who came out – we had over 2,000 guests! Though the fest has passed, we are still swimming in tomatoes – it’s the peak of the season! Our farmstands and markets now have tons of heirloom, red, cherry, and paste types for you to try. And you can also order heirlooms, slicers and pastes in bulk for preserving.

What happened at the Festival? Check out the photos on Facebook.

Tomato Recipes for the Peak Season

We all have favorite tomato recipes. Here are some of ours. Click the links to read the recipes.

Ratatouille in the pan.

Roasted Tomato Basil Salad Dressing
Fresh Tomato-Corn Salsa
Tomato Basil Salad  
Panzanella: Tomato and Bread Salad 
Dekal’s Tomato Bean Soup
Husk Cherry and Cherry Tomato Salsa
Ratatouille Outside the Box
Garlic and Herb Ratatouille

Recipes for Preserving Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Tomato Sauce Farmer-Style – the recipe Sarah Voiland did for the Tomato Canning Demo at the fest.
Canned Plum Tomatoes

We have half bushels of heirlooms, reds, or paste tomatoes that you can order for pickup in the Boston area and around Western MA at our farmstands, markets and CSA pickups. Everyone is welcome to order.

The Famous Tomato Tasting  ~ Results 2013

Tomato Tasting at the Tomato Festival, 2013.

There they were – the many many varieties of tomatoes, ready to taste. We laid them out in the tasting barn in sections by type with the categories of Cherry, Paste, Heirloom type, and Red Slicer. Unbeknownst to many there is also another category in our farmer minds – the Cocktail Tomato (which we break out in the results). What is a cocktail tomato… not quite a regular tomato, not quite a cherry tomato, a little bigger than a bite.

If you came to the tasting at the Tomato Festival, you received six stickers to assign to your favorite tomatoes (3 stickers to first favorite, 2 to second, and 1 to third). As the tasting goes along you can see which ones are working it by the collection of stickers on their card. I wonder if we had the votes hidden if it would affect the winners. It is hard to taste all the varieties laid out there anyway, so the outcome is skewed by which tomatoes people choose to taste more. Cherry tomatoes anybody? And I would say the tasting also favors those tomatoes with fresh eating qualities, as opposed to cooking or saucing qualities.

The votes are in. The public has spoken.

Overall Top 20 – Type, Variety Name, Total Votes

Cherry Sungold 130
Cherry Matt’s Wild 113
Cherry Lucia 87
Cherry Black Cherry 79
Cherry Jasper 67
Cherry Esterina 52
Cherry Supersweet 100 49
Cocktail Tomatoes Indigo Rose 49
Cherry Sunpeach 37
Heirloom Type Watermelon Beefsteak 37
Cherry Coyote 34
Heirloom Type Juane Flamme 32
Heirloom Type Striped German 31
Red Slicer Hybrids Mountain Merit 29
Cherry Golden Sweet 28
Heirloom Type Pink Beauty 28
Heirloom Type White Tomesol 28
Heirloom Type Paul Robeson 27
Heirloom Type Anna Russian 26
Cherry Sakura 24
Heirloom Type Hog Heart 23

Thanks very much to our many tomato chopping volunteers, especially Alicia and the Malek family, and very especially Matt and Linda Soffen – who help organize the tasting. Thanks Micky McKinley, Stephanie Clay, Dot Moore, Marilee Booth, Les Gagne, and our other very helpful volunteers!

Top Tomatoes in Each Category

Sungolds in the sun.

Sungold won best of Cherry Tomatoes – shocking, I know.
Indigo Rose won in the Cocktail Tomato category.
Watermelon Beefsteak took top honors for Heirloom style tomato. What a name – wouldn’t have thought watermelon steak would be so tasty.
Mountain Merit proved most meritorious in the Red Slicing category.
And a three-way tie for the Paste Title, between Gilberte, Granadero, and San Marzano. Albeit with only four votes each. Something tells me they taste better as sauce.

There were some previously reigning champions missing from the tasting table this year, either due to lack of ripeness from the cool weather or other factors involved in harvesting thousands of tomatoes. For example, Federle won the overall tasting one year, despite being a paste tomato. Come taste them next year! And you may well taste them this year if you order paste tomatoes in bulk as they are now ripening like crazy.

If you would like to see the full results from the tasting, click to see the PDF of Tomato Tasting 2013 – All Results.

Tomato Trot 5K Race Results

John McCarthy takes first place for men in Tomato Trot 2013.

Congratulations to John McCarthy for first place in the men’s category and Samantha Presnal for first place in the women’s category! A cross-country style trail race through farm fields. Did you run the race and want to see your time? Click here to see the race results.

Trot race photos on Red Fire’s Facebook.

Lots of race photos by Northeast Race Photo.

Congratulations to all runners for a great race!


Thanks to all for a great festival! It will happen again next year, round the same time, when the tomatoes start to weigh heavy and ripe on the vines.

Stay tuned for more recipes, stories, coupons and events from the farm with our e-news – you can sign up here.

Steve keeps the farmstand stocked with many cherry tomatoes during the festival.

~ Sarah Voiland

Melon Harvest Time at the Farm

Posted by: on Jul 27, 2013 | One Comment

It’s melon season on the farm! Check out the photos below to see how we harvest them.

We grow a whole bunch of types of melons. Muskmelons (like cantaloupes) of different sizes, Honeydew, French style melons, Watermelons of many varieties, like Peace the awesome yellow-fleshed watermelon, and Little Baby Flower, the sweetest little melon ever. These melon varieties are superior in flavor to the large commercial types of melons – give them a taste and you will know.

You can now find the melons at our farmstands and markets!

First, we pick and collect the ripe melons into “nests” organized up and down the field.

Here’s a closer up photo. Elly, the Granby Harvest and Packing Manager, piles muskmelons in the field.

Then the truck pulls up and the crew tosses melons up to the truck, where Elly catches them and puts them into pallet bins. Precision throwing. Gentle catching.


Taste-test subjects.

Muskmelons are easy to tell ripeness, as they blush golden.

Watermelons are trickier. You have to search for the brown tendril across from the stem, check the yellow spot under the melon, tap it for a ripe round sound… Ryan searches for ripe watermelons.


Wally approves the first watermelon harvest!

The best part is taking some home to eat! Sarah carries out some of the harvest. Plus a camera full of these pictures!

Some Spring Greens on the Farm

Posted by: on Jun 4, 2013 | No Comments


A drawing of some of the greens varieties we grow at the farm.

Getting to know all of our greens turns making a salad into a craft. My grandmother always surprises me with her salads, adding strawberries or sunflower seeds and pairing them with homemade dressings. I always want more and they prepare me for the delicious meal to follow.

Check out some of the featured dressing recipes on our website.

Arugula Brassicaceae

Also called roquette, is a tender, dark green leaf and is faintly peppery or spicy. Larger, older leaves tend to be hotter than small, young leaves, but the flavor is variable. We feature arugula in our salad and braising mixes. And also sell it on its own. Tastes delicious in a sandwich with pear and Havarti cheese.     

Mizuna Brassica Rapa 

This Japanese spider mustard adds wonderful textural variety to salads. It is colorful and has thin jagged edges that make it stand out from all other greens. The flavor is unquestionably spicy. We feature mizuna in our salad and braising mixes, but be warned that it shrinks when cooked!

Tatsoi Brassica Rapa

This Asian green has thin white or light green stalks and round, dark green leaves. It is a delicate green that can be cooked like bok choi. It has a mild mustard flavor and is featured in our salad and braising mixes.

Sorrel Polygonaceae

Sorrel is my favorite salad green. We grow a red veined variety, (Rumex Sanguineus in latin). It is typically harvested as a tiny leaf, about an inch to an inch and a half long. And has red veins shooting through which makes it interesting to see and taste. The flavor is tangy, almost lemony. We mix sorrel into our braising and salad mixes. But pluck out one of the tiny red streaked leaves and experience the flavor all on its own.

Spinach Amaranthaceae

Spinach is one of the healthiest greens out there. Super nutrient dense, spinach can be eaten raw in salads or cooked. Try spinach in a simple salad, or lightly braised or sautéed with garlic or green garlic as a side or part of a main dish. You can also try a long, slow cook for spinach, and add butter and cream for a creamed spinach dish.

Lettuce Asteraceae

We grow many types of lettuce in our fields. Right now in the very beginnings of summer, lettuce is thriving with cool mornings and evenings that keep their sensitive leaves moist. Currently we’re harvesting Romaine, Butterhead, Red Oak, Green Oak, Red Leaf, Green Leaf, and Cherokee. Each one makes its own unique salad giving a different texture and taste.


Wally celebrating the spring greens


Article written by Lauren McMullen.


Pick Your Own 2013

Posted by: on Jun 4, 2013 | 5 Comments

Note: PYO is only available to Red Fire Farm CSA and Farmstand members.

Not open to the public.


Now open for 2013!

As part of your Vegetable CSA membership, you have access to our Pick Your Own patches.  The farm is family-friendly, so bring your little ones and check out our land. PYO includes herbs, flowers, berries, peas, tomatoes, tomatillos, hot peppers, and more (changes with the season).

Late July, August and September are great months to come for pick your own, as by then we’re brimming with crops like cherry tomatoes, basil, tomatillos, hot peppers, green beans, herbs, flowers, and ground cherries.

Pick Your Own is a perk for members that can make it out – we still aim to give all members the value of their share in harvested and delivered vegetables :). But of course we want you to come out to visit.

Check back here for weekly updates on what’s available!

Do your picking in either Granby or Montague based on your pickup location. Details for each location are below. There are sometimes differences in picking limits based on availability in the fields.

     If you are traveling to the farm for over 1 hour to do the picking (Boston area and Worcester members), then you probably will come for picking only once during the early summer season.  This means that when you are here you can pick a lot at once, once the limits have gone up.
If you are a member from Franklin, Hampshire or Hampden County and you can easily make it to the farm each week, then we ask that you pick weekly but not as much each time.  This is why there are different limits posted for each crop depending on where you are coming from.
Farm Stand Members ($300 level) can pick a lot at once if desired, but you must pay as you go (by using credit from your card).  Prices are posted for each PYO crop on the board. There are usually limits on crops for Farm Stand Members also.

What to Bring
Come ready for outdoor weather. Also please bring containers to take your pickings home in, and leave the quart and pint containers for reuse if possible.

Getting to the Farm
If you have a car, share a ride! Meet some other local food loving people. You can post on our facebook seeking rides.

Open to CSA and Farm stand Members from Granby, Springfield, Worcester and the Boston area.

Pick Your Own details are inside the farm stand in the center of the barn at 7 Carver St., including a map of field areas and a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting. You can come to pick any day, hours are 9am – 8pm.
From Tuesday through Sunday, we usually have someone working the farm stand from 9-8pm. Otherwise it’s all self-serve. There’s extra parking in the Brown-Ellison Park next door if needed.

Husk Cherries:
Golden fruits inside paper husks – ripe when fallen to the ground. Remove husk to eat.

CSA Members: Up to 1 pint per week.  Pick extra @ 2.50 half pint or $5 pint.

Farm Stand Members: Up to 1 pint per week. 2.50 half pint or $5 pint

Cherry Tomatoes:
Explore up and down the rows for multiple varieties!

Check the board for notes about when to pick, as we will be spraying the plants once per week with copper to protect them from late blight (the devastating disease of 2009, which we don’t have so far but has been found in CT), and you can’t go in there for 24 hrs after spraying. Even though the copper is relatively safe, there is some chance of it causing eye irritation in some people after it is freshly applied. There is a possibility you will see some of the green residue of this spray on the tomato fruits, and if you do you should wash the fruits before eating.  Copper in this form has a very low toxicity to humans and animals, but it is important to wash it off the fruit.

CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed

CSA Members: 1 pint per share per week.

Farm Stand Members: Pick up to 1 pint per week @ $3 per pint.

A few left for the season!

CSA Members: 1/2 pint per member per week.

Farm Stand Members: can pick up to 1/2 pint per week @ $3.50 per half pint.

Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Lemon Balm, Chives, Basil, Parsley and more can be picked as much as needed. 

CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed.  

Green and Yellow Beans:
New succession ready for picking!

CSA Members:  2 quarts per member per week or 5 quarts for the season.

        Farm Stand Members: As needed @ $3.00 per quart.

Hot Peppers: Jalapeno, cherry bomb, anaheim, cayenne, and others.
CSA Members: Pick as needed.     

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed.

Sweet Mini Peppers:
CSA Members: Up to 5 fruits per week for now.       

Farm Stand Members: Up to 5 fruits per week for now @ $.25 per fruit.

CSA Members: 20 stems per member per week. And up to 7 sunflowers!

Farm Stand Members: 15 stems per member per week. And up to 5 Sunflowers!


We now have a patch in Montague! The field is at 184 Meadow Road, in front of the large greenhouse. This section is small, so it’s got capacity for Montague, Amherst and Northampton area members only! 

Please park on the grass along Meadow Road, not blocking any thruways or driveways. Also at head of driveway up to large greenhouse, not blocking the driveway.

Pick Your Own information is at the large old tobacco barn next to Meadow Road near the red hand-painted Red Fire Farm hanging sign. Pick Your Own details will be there, including an informational map attached to the side of the barn facing the road, a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting and measuring. Bring containers to take things home!

Self-serve. You can come to pick any day 9am – 8pm. There will be a log book, so you can keep track of your picking if you are at the $300 Farm stand member level, as those members pay half of retail price for PYO items. Please tally your purchases as you go, and we will process them periodically at the office. PYO for CSA level members is free up to limits provided.

Husk Cherries:
Golden fruits inside paper husks – ripe when fallen to the ground. Remove husk to eat.

CSA Members: 1/2 pint per member per week. Up to 2 pints for the season for one-time pickers. Pick more @ $2.50 per half pint.

Farm Stand Members: 1/2 pints @ $2.50 per half pint.

       Cherry Tomatoes:
      Explore up and down the rows for multiple varieties!

     Check the board for notes about when to pick, as we will be spraying the plants once per week with copper to protect them from late blight (the devastating disease of 2009, which we don’t have so far but has been found in CT), and you can’t go in there for 24 hrs after spraying. Even though the copper is relatively safe, there is some chance of it causing eye irritation in some people after it is freshly applied. There is a possibility you will see some of the green residue of this spray on the tomato fruits, and if you do you should wash the fruits before eating.  Copper in this form has a very low toxicity to humans and animals, but it is important to wash it off the fruit.

All sorts of fun and delicious shapes, sizes and varieties! 

CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed.


CSA Members: 1 pint per share per week.

Farm Stand Members: Pick up to 1 pint per week @ $3 per pint.

Herbs: Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Lemon Balm, Tarragon, Chives,  basil and parsley can be picked by all members as much can be used.

Hot Peppers: Jalapeno, habanero, serrano, super chile, cayenne, and others.

CSA Members: Pick as needed.

Farm Stand Members: Pick as needed @ $.25 per fruit. 

Sweet Mini Peppers: 
CSA Members: Up to 5 fruits per week for now.       

Farm Stand Members: Up to 5 fruits per week for now @ $.25 per fruit.

CSA Members: 20 stems per member per week including up to 7 sunflowers.

Farm Stand Members: 20 stems per member per week including up to 7 sunflowers.

Fun things to do in Montague:

Ryan’s handwritten map to the farm stand in Montague. Also features the Bookmill – great place for snacks and beer. And books.

  • Visit our Old Depot Gardens farm stand at 504 Turners Falls Road in Montague, very cute, with our produce and tasty local products.~ 2 miles from the farm.
  • Check out the Bookmill, cafe with waterfall, used bookstore, cd shop, art gallery, beer. 1/4 mile from the farm stand.

Enjoy the season and the fields!

Spring on the Farm

Posted by: on Apr 22, 2013 | 2 Comments

Now that we have passed almost an entire month since the Spring equinox, the farm has been buzzing with activity! We are beginning to get many of our seasonal vegetables transplanted into the fields for the major harvest season, preparing for the opening of Red Fire farmstands in Granby and Montague on Saturday April 27, and spreading news of Red Fire’s various CSA share plan offerings.

A new greenhouse is being built, spring harvests continue, seeding flies along in the greenhouse and field, and the first flowers are beginning to bloom. Read on to see pictures. We can’t wait for the summer months while we keep you all updated on what we’re planting, growing, and sharing here!

Sign up for a Red Fire Farm CSA Share today!

1) Did you know that when you sign up for our Farm Stand Membership, you receive an immediate 10% discount on all our products & all our local friends’ products?

Now you do! Whether you want to stop in Granby, Montague, or visit us at a local farmer’s market- a Farm Stand Membership is a great way to choose your own seasonal fresh veggies and fruit or various other local provisions we sell at the stands – on your schedule.

2) True or False: there are over 15 Red Fire Farm CSA pick-up location options throughout the week for our Farm Share members?

True, of course! From downtown Boston to Springfield, MA and cities in between- enjoy Red Fire Farm’s organic vegetables and fruit on a weekly basis. If you can’t pick it up, inquire within [] about our home delivery options. Not only do you receive a weekly batch of our locally-grown goodies but you’re also able to have a Pick-Your-Own adventure at either farm and a weekly newsletter with farm news & updates.

3) Is it possible to brighten up your kitchen with the many beautiful flowers grown at Red Fire Farm? Want a CSA fruit share with strawberries, blueberries, apples, plums, etc? Maybe you want to eat eggs from a local certified organic farm in a weekly CSA offering?

Yes– to all of these options! We have various CSA plans for interested folks and are deeply invested in making healthy and nutritious eating options available to as wide an audience as possible. You can review all of these offerings at our main site here.

Evan shows off the wares at market.

Spring Crop highlights


A rip in the row cover lets us see the over-wintered kale growing inside.

A growing favorite amongst our CSA members, this brassica is growing in our overwintered tunnels and will continue to grow in abundance throughout the approaching seasons.

This time of year you can find kale in our Braising Mix of cooking greens. Later in the summer, as bunches that come by variety, Red Curly, Lacinato, Red Russian and more.

Kale is high in Vitamins C and K, rich in calcium, and has many nutrients which are connected to fighting cancer. There are tons of ways to produce this flavorful- sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet- leafy green but one favorite would be a massaged kale and avocado salad.


Who’s excited about the first strawberries of the season?

The strawberry plants are now uncovered, and Wally can play in them! He doesn’t know yet about the delicious berries to come. The suspense.

Whether you want to make preserves or the family’s strawberry shortcake recipe, this crop first bears fruit beginning in late May or early June. This year, Red Fire Farm’s Strawberry Soiree will be on June 22nd when our strawberries are in peak abundance.


Mark drives the transplanting tractor with Joanna and Max on the back planting the rows.

Lettuce will soon be ready! Red Fire grows different lettuce varieties such as green and red butterhead, romaine, oak leaf, and green leaf. The lettuce is currently maturing in the greenhouse before being transplanted into our field where it is then harvested for your table. Our organic lettuce is a great local alternative to the lettuce you can buy in the big-box grocers.


The asparagus field in April.

A little later on in May, we shall see the stalks of asparagus rising from the rows in this field above. Then we pick them quick as can be to sell in the farmstands and markets.

Tomatoes – Plants for Your Garden!

Tomatoes! Even though our annual Tomato Festival is at the end of August (the 24th), nearly 100 different types are grown on our farm starting in the Spring and continuing throughout the Summer. Find our favorite varieties for sale as plants at the farmstands this spring for your garden!

Whether you enjoy them with fresh mozzarella and basil or mixed among some lettuce, tomatoes are a delicious treat that we love sharing. Learn more about growing tomatoes in our earlier blog post.

Farmstands Opening in Montague and Granby

Join us as our farmstands open in Granby and Montague! Both stands will open on Saturday April 27th. Open 7 days a week.

The early bird catches the worm! It’s a perfect time to pick up bedding plants for your garden. Choose from perennial herbs and early flower varieties like snapdragons, pansies, and petunias. We’ll also have early season organic produce available! Expect to see salad mix, spinach, black radishes, early greens, green garlic, and some others.

As it gets closer toward the middle of May, we’ll begin carrying more tender plants like tomato and pepper starts for your gardening needs. Of course, some of our favorite local products will be in stock too like eggs, sauerkraut, maple syrup, and milk on opening day.

Learn about our Farmstand Membership, our CSA, and what we’ll have at the stand this year. Help us welcome in spring and support our local economy! Both stands open 7 days a week from April 27th through October.

Gardening Party and Samples at the Stands on Saturday May 25th. Come and visit!

Red Fire Farmstand: 7 Carver St., Granby, MA.

Old Depot Gardens Farmstand: 504 Turners Falls Rd., Montague, MA (¼ mile up road from The Bookmill).

Farmers’ Markets Open This Spring in Amherst, Springfield and Boston! Market times and dates on the stand and market page.

Thank you for reading, and Happy Spring!

~ The crew at Red Fire Farm.

Pick Your Own for CSA Members

Posted by: on Jun 4, 2012 | 2 Comments

Note: PYO is only available to Red Fire Farm CSA and Farmstand members.

As part of your CSA membership, you have access to our Pick Your Own patches.  The farm is family-friendly, so bring your little ones and check out our land!  PYO includes herbs, flowers, berries, peas, tomatoes, tomatillos, hot peppers, and more (changes with the season).

Late July, August and September are great months to come for pick your own, as by then we’re brimming with crops like cherry tomatoes,

basil, tomatillos, hot peppers, green beans, herbs, flowers, and ground cherries.

We’ll let you know as more PYO crops become available.

We have PYO limits to make sure all our members can get some of the bounty.




All Boston area, Hampden County and Granby members should now PYO in Granby from here on out this season.

Only Hampshire and Franklin County members should pick in Montague.

Our current PYO amounts for Granby and Montague are:

The PYO board at the farm always trumps what is listed here, so check the board when you arrive!

Frost has come, so the sensitive PYO crops have finished for the season; only the hardy survive!

Kale and Collards – in Granby only, 1 bunch per week per member. Farm stand members can pick at 1.25 per bunch.

Herbs — Oregano, thyme, sage, marjoram, savory, parsley, remain in good supply in Granby & Montague.



If you have a car, share a ride! Meet some other local food loving people. You can post on our facebook seeking rides.

Pick Your Own details are inside the farmstand in the center of the barn at 7 Carver St., including a map of field areas and a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting. Bring containers to take things home! You can come to pick any day at any time, except at night.
From Tuesday through Sunday, we usually have someone working the farmstand from 9-5. Otherwise it’s all self-serve.
There’s extra parking in the Brown-Ellison Park next door if needed.

PYO for Boston Area Members
When you come out there are usually two PYO picking amounts listed for each crop, one for folks that pick up at the farm and one for Boston area or further out members. Boston members can pick 8 quarts of strawberries at once, assuming they can only make it to the farm once for strawberry season.

PYO for Montague Area MembersNew Patch in Montague!
We now have a new patch in your neighborhood! The field is at 184 Meadow Road, in front of the greenhouse. This section is small, so it’s got capacity for Montague area members only! 

Please park on the grass along Meadow Road, not blocking any thruways or driveways. Also at head of driveway up to large greenhouse, not blocking the driveway. The shady driveway by the mailbox for 184 Meadow Road leads up to the brown barn. Pick Your Own details will be inside the brown barn on the left, including a map of field areas and a list of picking limits, and often containers for harvesting and measuring. Bring containers to take things home!

Self-serve. You can come to pick any day at any time, except at night. There will be a log book, so you can keep track of your picking if you are at the $300 Farmstand member level, as those members pay half of retail price for PYO items. Please tally your purchases as you go. PYO for CSA level members is free up to limits provided.

Preserving Parties
By the way, when you’re setting your schedule, if you like to make dates for things, I highly recommend planning a weekend or a day of preserving sometime late August or September. Make some tomato sauce, can some salsa, freeze some corn or peppers. Peach jam. Pesto to freeze. Watermelon eating party, what have you.
We send out a bulk order list once we have lots of things, and you can get ingredients for projects delivered to your CSA pickup.
Bulk pickling cukes for pickles are usually available from early July through the end of August. So plan to make pickles earlier on.