Red Fire North at a Crossroads

Dear Red Fire North Community,

Red Fire North stands at a crossroads and we’re reaching out to ask for your support. Please reach out with any questions and comments!

The Problem:

National price increases and food/supply shortages are persistent, and are expected to get worse before they get better. Weather and environmental challenges have put pressure on already problematic food systems. Covid related impediments to labor, shipping, and supply chain links have increased food and supply prices. It now appears that these increases will be more than temporary and we are faced with no choice but to pass the increases through to our customers. Prices at Red Fire North will be rising.

In the past, overall lower food prices (as a percentage of income) have been achieved at the expense of both our environment and the people who work within the food sector. Farmers and farm workers, food factory workers, food service workers etc. are exposed to stressful and at times dangerous working conditions. They are paid the lowest possible wages, and are overall severely undervalued in the labor force. The “food products” that are the result of this system are often nutritionally inadequate and have resulted in epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and other food caused maladies.

At Red Fire North and the Red Fire Farm, we have been working for decades to reverse some of the harmful results of our warped food system. Because of Ryan’s deep understanding of soil science and his dietary curiosity, Red Fire Farm has been able to sustain a very large diversity of farm crops (over 300 varieties of organic fruits and vegetables!). However this process is complicated and difficult to manage, not to mention costly to maintain. At Red Fire North, we play the role of bringing the results of these farm efforts to our local community. We also work hard to provide food that is whole, and organic as much as possible. We cook with only natural, local sweeteners (maple syrup, honey, and fruit like dates!). We know exactly where our ingredients come from. We are incredibly dedicated to our waste systems (we are serious about our compost!). The store is run with much intentionality.

However, providing you with all of these benefits of Organic, Local Foods takes a lot of thought, planning, and effort. This translates to LABOR. That includes our workers here at Red Fire North. The creative, energetic young people who staff the store and kitchen are faced with a gauntlet of financial challenges: endless college debt, sky high housing and living costs, and a dearth of well-paying jobs in their fields. We have created a system which has kept food worker wages so low that they cannot even afford to buy the food that they are instrumental in producing. It has got to the point where it simply is not worth it to work in the food sector.

At Red Fire North we are undergoing a process of increasing the wages that our crew earns. By year's end, we will be increasing the pay of our most involved people to $18.00 per hour and our other staff to $15.00 per hour. While this pay scale seems ridiculously low considering the cost of living that they are faced with, they have assured me that it is a reasonable target. The problem is that the wage scale is too high for our present sales volume to support. While we have seen a growth of sales since we opened in 2018, we are only at a sales level that can, euphemistically, be described as, “just below the surface”. Our ability to continue to “hold our breath”, while extraordinary, will reach a limit.

Our Solution:

  • Raising wages! Paying a higher than minimum wage invests in the people who work hard and care for the store. It shows a commitment to staff, reduces turn over, and generally improves morale. Staff can devote more time and energy to creating and maintaining a beautiful, engaging space!

  • Artist of the Month and other events! Increasing the number of events we have demonstrates an investment in community and also increases visibility by expanding our customer base.

  • Lunch! We will be expanding our lunch/prepared food options as we head into the winter months. We are hoping this investment into an already popular aspect of the Store will generate excitement and interest among customers and bring in more business! Most of our foods are plant based and made with really local ingredients. We like to think of ourselves as the “Low Carbon Footprint Food Store”.

  • Promotion! We’re getting ourselves out there! Increased focus on promoting the things that make us special and the unique work we do will increase visibility. Please watch for promotions as they come up and participate by trying something that may be new to you and by encouraging your friends to join you in strengthening our local economy.

How you can help:

  • Become a member! For an annual fee of $50, you become an integral part of sustaining the store. In addition, the 5% member discount helps you personally combat rising prices.

  • Bring your friends! You love Red Fire North, so will your friends! Share with your friends and neighbors that we are a store that cares passionately about real food and preserving the diversity of our local food system. Until the end of the year, anyone who comes in because of a referral will receive a free goodie of their choice :)

  • Give us feedback! We want to hear from you! Tell us what you would like us to stock. What would you like to buy from the kitchen? What events would you like to attend? What local artist do you want to be our artist of the month? We want to know!

  • Buy more and buy regularly. This is the biggest thing you can do to help preserve this space. We need you to buy more bread, more apples from Red Fire Farm, more watermelon radishes (some watermelon radishes). Tell us what you want to see and we’ll make it happen. We are here for You.

The bottom line is: we want to provide food to you. We want to provide food that is touched by a human hand; a hand that cares about you and the land that the food comes from. And we want to be a space that treats the people who work to provide that food as the treasured partners in life that they are. Over the next two months we will be working hard to meet your needs. Your increased support of our effort will help us also meet the needs of our incredible staff.

Thanks,

Paul Voiland

11/12/2021

Posted: to General News on Sat, Nov 20, 2021
Updated: Sat, Nov 20, 2021

Red Fire North

485 Federal Street, Montague, MA 01351

413-367-3071


Hours

Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM

CLOSED Monday