|By Cory Garwacki|
GRANBY Whether they're sliced up nice and topped on a burger or served among a medley of greens in a refreshing and healthy salad, the tomato is a very versatile food.
Whichever way people like to consume this treat, they will have that chance on Aug. 22 when this tomato-loving community welcomes the ninth annual Tomato Festival to Red Fire Farm.
According to Janna Berger, events coordinator at the farm, "during last year's [tomato] festival I believe we had over 1,000 people visit us and see all the different selections of produce we offer, along with a variety of other exciting and enjoyable activities for all ages."
"There seems to be a lot of people who come out year after year to the festival, but then there are people who happen to be visiting [the festival] for the first time," Sarah Ingraham, manager of communications and personnel said.
During the festival, which kicks off at noon on Saturday, several child-oriented, educational activities will be featured. These include straw fort building, tug-of-war, a haystack search, planting seeds and vegetable identification.
Even though it is intended to be a fun afternoon for children and their families, it also educates them about farming and agriculture.
"I really think that there is a growing interest in people wanting to learn exactly what the farming industry is all about. People are curious about learning where and how their food is grown, as well as the farming way of life in general," Berger said.
One of the events taking place on the morning of the festival is the annual Tomato Trot.
"This event takes participants along a portion of the farm before the actual festival opens for the public," Berger said.
Prospective participants in the Tomato Trot must arrive at the farm no later than 10:30 a.m. on the morning of the festival.
Pre-registration for the Tomato Trot is available at a cost of $15, with on-site race registration available on the morning of this event for $18.
The general public is welcome to visit Red Fire Farm's Tomato Festival from noon to 5 p.m., where they will have the opportunity to see guest chefs in action.
According to the farm's Web site, www.redfirefarm.com, some of the featured culinary experts include Christina Pirello, whose cooking show, "Christina Cooks Naturally," can be seen on PBS, as well as chef Brian Aussant, of the Bottega Cucina restaurant in West Springfield, along with cookbook author Janet Fletcher.
Red Fire Farm's owner and production manager, Ryan Voiland, who purchased the formerly idle plot of land where his farm now sits nine years ago, has seen significant highs and lows impact his business.
For example: "The first several years of the Tomato Festival we lost money on the event, and it [still] remains a financially precarious undertaking," Voiland told Reminder Publications.
"It takes a lot of effort to plan, advertise, set up and run the festival on top of an already very busy harvesting schedule. Nevertheless we are excited to be able to share our passion for farming, good food and great tomatoes with everyone who comes to the festival," he added.
Red Fire Farm is located at 7 Carver St. in Granby and festival admission is $5 for all, with Tomato Trot participants admitted at no charge. This event will take place rain or shine.
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