Red Fire Farm’s starlors named the best cherry tomatoes in Massachusetts

Ryan Voiland of Red Fire Farm in Montague with his award-winning starlor yellow cherry tomatoes.

Ryan Voiland of Red Fire Farm in Montague with his award-winning starlor yellow cherry tomatoes.

Ryan Voiland of Red Fire Farm in Montague with his award-winning starlor yellow cherry tomatoes.

Ryan Voiland of Red Fire Farm in Montague with his award-winning starlor yellow cherry tomatoes. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Ryan Voiland of Red Fire Farm in Montague with his award-winning starlor yellow cherry tomatoes.

Ryan Voiland of Red Fire Farm in Montague with his award-winning starlor yellow cherry tomatoes. STAFF PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 08-25-2023 5:25 PM

MONTAGUE — For the second consecutive year, Red Fire Farm’s starlor tomatoes have been named the best cherry tomatoes in Massachusetts at the Boston Public Market for the Commonwealth’s 38th Annual Tomato Contest.

“I think these tasted as good as ever,” Ryan Voiland, co-owner of Red Fire Farm, said of this year’s crop.

The annual competition, held Aug. 22 in Boston Public Market’s plaza to raise awareness for local agriculture, brought in 84 entries from 19 farms across the commonwealth. Entries spanned four categories: slicing, cherry, heirloom and heaviest. This was the third straight year in which the farm’s starlor variety was awarded in the cherry category, having won first place honors in 2022 and second place in 2021.

According to Voiland, this year’s starlor tomatoes are the fruits of heavy labor. Aside from heavy rain and flood damage, Red Fire Farm had to navigate the market. He said he was only able to acquire a relatively small number of seeds through a connection in Canada, sourcing from French seed company Gautier.

“The hardest thing is getting the seeds for it,” Voiland said. “There are very few seed companies in America that carry it.”

Voiland previously described the starlor as an “impressive variety,” reaching the height of the greenhouses they grow in before looping back down. The tomato, oval in shape and yellow in color, boasts a balance of “sweetness and tang” that has captivated the contest’s judges for years.

Contest judges included food writers, chefs, produce experts and state officials who evaluated tomatoes based on flavor, firmness/slicing quality, exterior color and shape, according to an award announcement released by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources.

“The tomatoes grown in the Commonwealth represent some of the most varied and delicious produce we have to offer,” Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner Ashley Randle said in the statement. “Our vegetable farmers have spent years and decades honing their skill in growing these summertime favorites, so we are lucky to be able to sample some here today.”

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Red Fire Farm’s Captain Lucky tomatoes also placed fourth in the heirloom category.

The farm’s Granby location will host a free Rainbow Cherry Tomato Tasting on Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m. Members of the public are invited to taste 35 varieties of cherry tomatoes at the event.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.