CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) announced today that their revolving Emergency Farm Fund has been re-opened to aid western Massachusetts farms whose stone fruit crop was damaged by the extreme cold snap in mid-February. “Many peach growers in our region lost their entire crop, and other stone fruits such as plums were also damaged,” says Philip Korman, CISA’s Executive Director. “Farmers who lost their crops now find themselves in a difficult cash situation since there is no income coming from a peach harvest. We hope these loans will offer those farmers the option to continue farming until their next crop comes in without resorting to drastic measures.”
The CISA Emergency Farm Fund is offering zero-interest loans up to $10,000 to orchards impacted by the February cold snap. The application period will close on August 26, 2016. Application information can be found at buylocalfood.org.
The CISA Emergency Farm Fund was launched in 2011 in partnership with Whole Foods Market and Equity Trust. The Fund was a response to the damage suffered by farms in western Massachusetts due to Hurricane Irene. Through the Fund, CISA distributed $93,000 in $5,000 to $10,000 zero-interest loans to eleven farms in 2012. It was reopened in 2013 in response to greenhouse damage caused by a February blizzard and $30,000 in loans were distributed to three farms.
Korman explained that the creation of a disaster-recovery fund filled a longstanding financing gap for local farms. “The CISA Emergency Farm Fund is an important supplement to the public safety net provided by state and federal government programs. The Fund’s small, no-interest, quick turnaround loans are able to provide assistance right away to help tide the farms over. ”
CISA, an organization whose mission is to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy, has provided hundreds of farms with technical and marketing assistance over the past twenty years, but lending was a new addition to CISA’s services. “Our weather patterns are becoming increasingly volatile, and that’s challenging for weather-dependent businesses like farms,” says Korman. “February’s extremely cold temperatures were damaging because the winter had been unusually warm, and the year’s fruit buds were not adequately hardened to the cold.”
The creation of the loan fund in 2011 was catalyzed by a $50,000 matching grant provided by an anonymous donor. The response from businesses and the community was impressive, with gifts from $5 to $20,000 pouring in. Whole Foods Market and The Farm Table at Kringle Candle each contributed $20,000. Other large donors included Farm Credit East, The Beveridge Family Foundation, Easthampton Savings Bank, Smith College, Florence Savings Bank, Deerfield Academy, and numerous individuals. “We are so pleased that the community stepped up for our farmers to set up this Fund and that the Fund will continue to help farms into the future. This is so important since our farmers make possible the food that sustains our families every day of the year,” said Korman.
The CISA Emergency Farm Fund is managed by CISA with the assistance of Equity Trust. The Loan Review Committee includes a team of people with a variety of agricultural backgrounds, including CISA staff, Whole Foods Market, Equity Trust, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and farmers.
CISA is a nationally recognized organization of farmers, community members, and advocates working together to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy. Working in western Massachusetts and the region for over 20 years, CISA offers technical assistance to farmers, works to make local food more accessible to more people, and runs the nation’s oldest agricultural “buy local” campaign – “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown®.” Find out more about our work at buylocalfood.org or call 413-665-7100.
CISA is an equal opportunity provider.