The Recorder – CISA administers $110K in loans to help farms recover from summer storms

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Published: 3/27/2022 10:57:12 PM

Modified: 3/27/2022 10:56:16 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) has provided zero-interest loans to eight local farms that were adversely affected by heavy downpours that made their way through the region last summer.

Totaling $110,000, CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund is being used to help farms get past the financial hurdles and income loss due to flooding, soil loss, crop damage and other issues that arose from the summer’s high levels of precipitation. Farms from Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties were eligible for loans of up to $20,000.

“The fund fills a gap in the network of support for farms, and enables them to cover immediate expenses so they can keep farming, keep investing in their businesses and keep working toward their bigger goals,” CISA Executive Director Philip Korman said in a press release. “We rely on community support and donations, and we’re so grateful to all of our supporters for making the Emergency Farm Fund — and all of CISA’s work — possible.”

From Northampton to Montague, farms up and down the Pioneer Valley were impacted by the summer’s severe weather, which drastically affected farming operations and harvests, according to the release.

“Last season was awful. We lost just about everything that wasn’t in a greenhouse or high tunnel. The fields were was so muddy that we were losing boots in the mud, so we couldn’t even get in there to work,” recounted Meghan Hastings, farm manager at Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby. “This loan is huge for us. We have a lot of expenses this time of year and a long time to go before we see any of it come back, so this will help us bridge that gap.”

In Northampton, 2 Cents Homegrown owner Shaunia Swinton said she missed out on a significant portion of the farming season because she had just recently leased land after previously operating in Belchertown.

“It was so challenging because I was figuring out the soil and the ecosystem on my new land, and I have very limited farm infrastructure — no greenhouse or anything — so my season is already short,” Swinton said in the release. “All the rain on top of that really shortened my season and limited what I could harvest.”

Swinton said the loan will help her recover from last season’s losses while helping her build up her business.

“This loan is a little bit of capital that helps make up what I’ve lost and help me get to the next step, without having to jump through a lot of hoops,” she said.

CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund was established in 2011 in response to Tropical Storm Irene and is often deployed to help farms “respond to critical, time-sensitive needs, the release explains. A Loan Review Committee includes people with a variety of agricultural backgrounds, including farmers, CISA staff and board members, as well as representatives from The Carrot Project, the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund, state Department of Agricultural Resources and Equity Trust.

“CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund was established to help farmers bridge difficult periods like this past summer,” Korman explained in the release, “when excessive rainfall drowned crops for many local farms.”

The following eight farms in the Pioneer Valley received loans from CISA: Many Graces Farm & Design in Northampton, Red Fire Farm in Granby, Twin Oaks Farm in Hadley, Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby, Bardwell Farm in Hatfield, 2 Cents Home Grown in Northampton and Forest City Farms in Middletown, Connecticut.

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