Hampshire Life ID: Sarah Voiland, Co-Owner of Red Fire Farm in Montague and Lifelong CSA Enthusiast

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 12, 2016, by Brenda Nelson

Sarah Voiland says finding ways to connect folks to their local ecology and community and having fun eating local food are her life’s work. Voiland, who manages Red Fire Farm in Granby and Montague, has been a member of Community Supported Agriculture since joining the Poughkeepsie Farm Project CSA in New York state when she was a student at Vassar College. Later, she started a small CSA in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, and now she helps feed people through Red Fire, which she co-owns. She says she’s always been inspired by the positive environmental and social change that CSA’s create.

She gets help from her children, Wally, 4, and Chester, 1, who teach by example things like the way berries should be stuffed into one’s face, how to eat corn with full-body joy, and how to look good with a green smoothie mustache.

Full name: Sarah Elizabeth Voiland, or the long version honoring various family members — Sarah Elizabeth Vernam Ashworth Ingraham Voiland

Town of residence: Montague

Date and place of birth: Oct. 4th, 1980, Manchester, Connecticut

Job: Co­owner of Red Fire Farm

Who lives under the same roof as you? Ryan Voiland, Wally Voiland and Chester Voiland

Education: Bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Vassar College, 2003

Pets: None presently, as farming and children are plenty enough. Someday I will have a cat.

Hobbies: Making up songs for my children on the fly, cooking vegetables, looking at the natural world

Book you’d recommend to a friend: “An Everlasting Meal” by Tamar Adler

Favorite TV show/singer: We’ve been watching a lot of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” lately, which reminds me of my childhood. And I love Gillian Welch. Her music has such truth and timelessness to it.

Five things you can’t live without: Pockets in my pants or skirts, a computery device with internet access, a good knife, a cooking pot, and if we want to be literal, some kind of fire.

Last thing you purchased just for fun: A book at the Bookmill in Montague

What’s at the top of your bucket list? Go back to Ecuador to visit my host family from when I was in high school, and bring my kids so they can meet them. And eat the food there again. Helados de paila — best ice cream-like thing I have ever had.

Life­changing experience: During one year of college, I traveled with a group of students and teachers to five countries in a program called Global Ecology, living with host families, learning from community leaders about their challenges and successes for creating community structures and livelihoods that worked with the local environment. My main takeaway was that it is the grassroots, locally based efforts that make the biggest difference.

Strangest job you ever held: Going door to door explaining the Beaches Bill for MASSPIRG

Your current Facebook status: “Water coming out of the sky!”

A little­known fact about you: I starred in a vampire movie called “Moonshine.”

Dumbest thing you ever did: Starting a CSA vegetable farm without ever having worked on one. For some reason, apprenticing never occurred to me as an option, and it would have been really useful to know faster ways to harvest and weed and all. I look back and laugh at myself. But I wouldn’t be where I am now, I’m pretty sure, if I’d done things another way.

One trend you’d like to see return: Seasonal locally based eating as a common practice for the whole population. It tastes so good, and has so many benefits.

What really sets you off? Seeing houses built on prime farmland. That kind of land is a golden renewable resource if treated right.

If you could spend the day with a celebrity from any time in history, who would it be? Juanita Nelson, an activist farmer and community leader from Deerfield. I missed getting to talk to her while she was here. She made her life reflect her beliefs, and built a beautiful community.

Best advice you ever got: My brother, a filmmaker, told me, after making his first feature film, that going ahead and making a big project is very worthwhile no matter how hard it is, and you just need to do it. So I started my first CSA farm. That was some great advice, though it was crazy (see above answer about dumbest thing I ever did).

Favorite place to get a bite: Hungry Ghost Bread in Northampton. Unbelievably good bread. It makes transcendental tomato sandwiches. Farmers Markets are also a favorite of mine for getting food, as you can get a little bread, a little cheese, some very fresh fruit and vegetables and make a picnic. Though I don’t actually get to do that very often now that I am a farmer.

Favorite team: I love cheering wildly for friends at live soccer or such, but otherwise I’m not into sports.

What does your ideal weekend look like? Having time to cook something rather involved with family and friends, going to a lake or river to play with my kids, eating watermelon, reading at night.

One thing you would change about yourself: Be less scared to make mistakes. Like with speaking foreign languages or presenting to groups.

What gives you the creeps? Murder mysteries — I can’t read them very often or I start expecting to see horrible things around the next corner.

People who knew you in high school thought you were: Quiet, doing my thing.

Whom do you most admire? Jean Voiland, my mother-in­law, for the boundless generosity of her spirit; Leigh Youngblood from Mount Grace Land Trust for her eloquence and fearless advocacy for land; and Juanita Nelson (see above).

Parting shot: Deciding what we want and don’t want in our lives and the world is one of our biggest powers. Craft a life and choices that match. If we don’t do that, other people are making the decisions for us.

— Compiled by Brenda Nelson

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