CISA reaches Growing Resilience campaign goal, awards more no-interest loans to farmers

Mike Antonellis, owner of Antonellis Farm, third from left, discusses the impact of flood-damaged fields in Deerfield in July 2023. Antonellis Farm is one of the recipients in the latest round of no-interest loans distributed through CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund.

Mike Antonellis, owner of Antonellis Farm, third from left, discusses the impact of flood-damaged fields in Deerfield in July 2023. Antonellis Farm is one of the recipients in the latest round of no-interest loans distributed through CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Blueberries at River Valley Farm in Whately, pictured in 2016. River Valley Farm is one of the recipients in the latest round of no-interest loans distributed through CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund.

Blueberries at River Valley Farm in Whately, pictured in 2016. River Valley Farm is one of the recipients in the latest round of no-interest loans distributed through CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-21-2024 12:01 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Fresh off awarding $222,000 in no-interest loans to farmers affected by 2023’s flooding, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) has also reached its $1.8 million goal in its Growing Resilience capacity-building campaign.

The campaign, which launched in early 2023 and was the first of its kind for CISA, will provide the agency with additional funding for a wide variety of programs and services, including supporting farmers’ infrastructure projects, expanding community access to locally grown food and providing flexibility to address challenges facing the agricultural community.

“I can’t imagine anything more important than securing one’s own local food supply in a time of changing climate,” said CISA Executive Director Philip Korman. “It’s really our goal to meet the challenges of the moment that are not going away.”

Examples of work that can be done with support from this campaign is the expansion of CISA’s senior farmshare program from 500 to 800 shares and direct outreach with farmers markets and farmstands to ensure they are able to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) benefits.

Korman said the campaign received support from more than 450 people and it will help support the agency’s work through 2030.

“It’s a beautiful expression of commitment to the community. … You just don’t see that in other parts of the country,” Korman said, adding that community support is “vital” in keeping the local food economy alive.

Another round of Emergency Farm Fund loans

Just a few weeks prior to the Growing Resilience campaign reaching its goal, CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund distributed its latest round of no-interest loans, totaling $222,400, to help farmers devastated by freezes and flooding in 2023.

Loan recipients in this round of funding include: Antonellis Farm, Deerfield; Barstow’s Longview Farm, Hadley; Calabrese Farms, Southwick; Granny’s Place, Southwick; Many Graces, Northampton; North Hadley Sugar Shack, North Hadley; River Valley Farm, Whately; Rooted Flowers, Agawam; and Song Sparrow Farm, Florence.

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The Emergency Farm Fund was started in 2011 in response to Hurricane Irene and has been supporting farmers the last 13 years as the Pioneer Valley has seen freezes, flooding, droughts and COVID-19. Korman said the fund has given out more than $700,000 in no-interest loans.

“I feel like we’re part of the Old Testament,” he said. “What this fund can do is respond more quickly and keep farms farming through that season where they’re hit hard.”

This fund is managed by CISA and the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, which Korman said has served as a great partner to his agency.

“The Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund, which provides financing to farms and food businesses through community investment, is happy to team up with CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund to get more capital to farms that need it quickly,” John Waite, executive director of the Franklin County CDC, said in a statement. “As the administrator of the PVGrows Fund, the Franklin County CDC knows that there are many uncertainties when operating a farm or small business, so the Emergency Farm Fund is critical when unexpected challenges arise.”

For more information about CISA and its programs, visit buylocalfood.org.