From Nancy Hanson, Board Chair, and Philip Korman, Executive Director
From Nancy Hanson, Board Chair, and Philip Korman, Executive Director
… and working to build a resilient, fair, and delicious local food system. This landmark was an opportunity to reflect on the impact of 25 years of work and change, and to look ahead to new challenges, new partnerships, and new possibilities.
*Ag Census Data, 1992 and 2012 | **CISA data, 2002 and 2017 | ***CISA Data, 2007 and 2017 | ✝︎2012 dollars
Reflections on 25 years of changes by CISA staff. Read more...
“When CISA came in … people were drifting away from farming. (CISA) helped bring farming back in fashion and were instrumental in highlighting the importance of agriculture in our area. With that, farming became a cool thing to do.” Mike Wissemann, Warner Farm. Read more...
Former CISA executive director Vicki Van Zee joins current director Philip Korman and Monte Belmonte of WRSI to celebrate CISA’s 25th anniversary, talk about the local agricultural context in which CISA started, and recall some of the issues in local farming that the first CISA meetings focused on.
CISA’s technical assistance program links farmers to information and experts through workshops, networking opportunities, intensive one-on-one support, and referrals. In 2018, CISA staff provided 258 farmers and other local food players with technical assistance support.
“There’s no way I could do all of this in a bubble—without experts and funding and connections to other growers, there’s just no way! CISA is there as a web of support so I can access the help and the resources I need to make the farm work. It’s like a really organized tool shelf with someone there who can just hand you the exact tool you need, when you need it.”
There’s the day-to-day work of operating a farm. Then there are the long-term projects: rehabbing the 45-acre orchard; building and refining the farm’s facilities; tweaking the business model and making changes every year as Elly’s knowledge about the fruit business grows; and building a brand-new farm store.
Through CISA’s technical assistance program, Elly attended workshops on farm labor and marketing and worked directly with experts to develop her first business and marketing plans. In 2018, she received an Emergency Farm Fund loan to offset the financial impacts of the record-setting rains throughout the summer and fall.
“Our mission is to connect people with their food supply, and we wanted to make it easier for people to connect with us. Opening a farm store gives us the opportunity to expand our sales and increase profitability, but also to reach people in a way that’s more familiar to most shoppers. The support we’ve gotten from CISA has been a very helpful part of that transition. And the themes for CISA’s workshop series have been right in line with our needs—maybe we just need everything CISA does and whenever it happens seems to be the perfect time!”
—Jeremy Barker Plotkin
In 2017, Jeremy and Dave opened a brand-new farm store, where they sell their own organic crops and meat alongside other locally-grown products. They’ve also added two acres of pick-your-own strawberries to kick off each summer with sweetness!
Through CISA’s technical assistance program, Jeremy and Dave have gotten one-on-one assistance with merchandising and marketing for their new store, and support in building strong relationships with the farm’s staff with an eye towards transitioning the farm when they retire.
“As everybody knows, we had so much rain last year. Some of our crops did ok, but we lost quite a bit of our winter crops—especially pumpkins and winter squash. That represented a sizeable chunk of income that we lost due to weather. The loan from the Emergency Farm Fund gives us a buffer because, as a seasonal business, our expenses start in mid-April but our income doesn’t really start coming in until mid-July. So now we know that those early expenses are covered, and it gave us a real boost to know we can go ahead with some of our plans for this coming season. Hopefully this year will be much better, but we’re also thinking about what changes we can make on our farm due to the changing climate systems. The new normal could be totally different than what we’re used to—but we feel fortunate to have CISA as a partner.”
Today, Linda, Edwin, and their son Joe, grow a diversified mix of vegetable crops, which they sell wholesale through local and regional distributors. Like so many farms, Twin Oaks suffered crop losses and financial setbacks due to the record-setting rainfall in 2018, and they were among the seven farms that received a total of $65,000 in no-interest loans through CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund loan program.
For All Farmers, the fiscal sponsorship and professional development given by CISA’s staff has functioned as a vital incubator. For CISA, this partnership is an opportunity to provide meaningful support to work that advances CISA’s mission.
“Refugees and immigrants entering the United States are, by and large, farmers. Farming is central to their identities and cultural integrity. Restoring these landless farmers to the land opens new possibilities for the health and vibrancy of refugee and immigrant communities and the well-being and equity of society at large. All Farmers works with farmers from all over the world and serves about 60 farm families annually.
The support from CISA has been so important to us, starting with the basics of fiscal sponsorship: being able to apply for grants and receive donations. There are also a lot of other benefits that aren’t as obvious. Partnering with a seasoned organization like CISA has helped us establish solid management practices that we would otherwise be creating from scratch, and CISA’s knowledge and experience have helped us navigate tricky situations with finesse.
I can also collaborate directly with CISA on our trainings for farmers, because CISA staff has more connections in the farming world. Last year we worked together on a livestock workshop for refugees and immigrants that was taught by two refugee farmers in Vermont. It was really helpful for the farmers in our network to learn from their peers and see what is possible for their own farms.”
—Hannah Spare, Executive Director of All Farmers
Fresh, local food should be available to every member of our community, and farmers should be paid adequately for their products. CISA’s work includes efforts to address food insecurity in partnership with local farms.
Since HIP’s inception in 2017, 55,000 families have purchased $9 million in fresh, local produce from 200 Massachusetts farmers.
In 2018, CISA staff worked with farmers to help them get approved to process HIP transactions, provided regular updates to HIP clients via the HIP Facebook page, worked directly with farmers’ market managers and vendors to increase attendance at markets and make them more welcoming spaces, organized a HIP customer survey, collaborated with partner agencies to recruit, train, and coordinate volunteers for high-traffic HIP locations, and worked with partners to advocate for ongoing funding for the program (read more).
“When the program started, we saw an influx of new customers. It means a lot to our staff be able to help people get access to produce that they didn’t have before, and it’s made some of the farmers’ markets we attend financially viable for us again. HIP created a win-win for supporting local agriculture and improving access to healthy food for people who are lower income.”
—Sarah Voiland, Red Fire Farm in Montague and Granby
“We have never had this opportunity to enjoy healthy options for food. It’s nice not having to choose between veg/fruit over other food like meat. We get both this way.”
—HIP participant survey response
In 2018, Senior FarmShare served 420 seniors in partnership with 11 local farms and 12 distribution partners.
Feedback from Senior FarmShare participants:
“Over the past two years, I have learned to cook and eat many foods I had never eaten in my life. I am more appreciative than I can ever express for this and other food programs offered.”
“Your senior shares added so much (needed) vitamins and resources for cooking. It made a world of difference to get fresh produce! The variety made me try new items that I hadn't tried before. I will add them favorably to my cooking list in the future. These different items added to an enjoyable adventure in cooking them.”
In 2018, CISA’s advocacy work included joining with groups nationwide to speak up about the new Farm Bill, supporting continued funding for HIP (Healthy Incentives Program), and educating incoming state legislators about the needs of the agricultural community.
Healthy Incentives Program (HIP)
CISA is a core partner on HIP. HIP’s enormous success in its first year of operation demonstrated the massive need and desire among low-income families for fresh, local fruits and vegetables—and it also led to a temporary shutdown of the program in the spring of 2018, when funding was exhausted earlier than anticipated. CISA, along with many partners throughout the state, rallied support from program participants, farmers, and advocates to secure an additional $2.35 million in the state 2018 supplemental budget and $4 million in the state’s 2019 budget for HIP (read more about HIP).
As we begin 2019, CISA and partners around the state are advocating for $8.5 million in the 2020 state budget to allow for growth and keep the program running year-round. To stay abreast of ongoing advocacy in support of HIP, bookmark the Massachusetts Food System Collaborative.
Candidate and Legislator Forums
During the campaign season of 2018, CISA co-sponsored a series of candidate forums organized by The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The five forums gave voters an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates for state offices, with a focus on food access and local farms.
In November, CISA convened a group of seated and incoming state legislators, legislative staff, and staff from six nonprofit partners to talk about food systems and agricultural priorities for the state. Read CISA’s Daily Hampshire Gazette column with advice for incoming legislators.
Central to CISA’s work is connecting the community to local farms and sharing farmers’ stories and experiences.
Dairy farmers Cheryl and Bob Fletcher of Fletcher Farm in Southampton talk about raising kids and cows at the same time, the benefits and challenges of running a farm as a family, and the reasons they love having visitors on the farm.
Emma Golonka of Golonka Farm in Whately talks about eating corn typewriter-style, what makes agriculture in the Valley stand out, and the secret trick to growing giant radishes.
Glenroy Buchanan of the Pioneer Valley NE Growers Coop talks about the different meaning of “farm” growing up in Jamaica, working with farm workers to find new outlets for the food they grow, and the first time he ever ate a potato.
As much as we celebrate the successes and strengths of our local food system, we must acknowledge the inequities built into it, including widespread hunger, unequal access to farmland and business opportunities, and troubling circumstances for farm workers. Read more…
Dairy farms are a vital piece of our local agricultural system, but dairy farms in the Northeast are struggling to survive. Read more…
The federal government’s new Fourth National Climate Assessment is a sobering analysis of the threats that climate change poses to human society, health, and life itself. Farmers have been and will continue to be among the first in our region to face the challenges of a changing climate. Read more…
In November 2018, CISA hosted Field Notes, our first-ever storytelling event. Coming of age on the farm, falling in love, building community, heartbreak, hunger, and pumpkin thieves: ten local people shared their true local food and farm stories to an audience of over 500 people at Northampton’s Academy of Music Theatre. Watch the whole moving, hilarious event here.
Here’s a highlight: Laurie Cuevas of Thomas Farm in Sunderland tells her story of heartbreak and hope as a dairy farmer.
CISA provided staffing for the PVGrows Forum, which was organized by a dedicated volunteer committee and focused on immigration and food and land access.
Keynote speakers from Vermont’s Migrant Justice discussed their work, which builds the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community. Migrant Justice’s Milk with Dignity Campaign calls on corporations to take responsibility for the farm worker rights abuses in their supply chains. Workshops focused on approaches to supporting food system workers in the Pioneer Valley, and the challenges of land access for urban, rural, and immigrant farmers, recognizing the long history of enslavement and racial discrimination that created and maintain patterns of land and wealth ownership.
Thanks to everyone who helped us reach our bold goal of raising $250,000 for our 25th anniversary fund! See our list of donors here.Jason Threlfall photo
CISA’s annual Fall Harvest Celebration was held at Valley View Farm and catered by Smith College Dining Services and Wheelhouse. This event drew 250 people to celebrate CISA’s 25th Anniversary, enjoy the harvest bounty, and raise money to support CISA’s important work.
We were delighted to have two special beers brewed in honor of CISA’s 25th anniversary: Valley Farmer IPA from The People’s Pint and Tractor Ryed IPA from Stoneman Brewery!
Insiyah Mohammad Bergeron
Transformative Development Initiative Fellow, MassInc
Pioneer Valley Growers Co-op, Owner
Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Owner
Al Griggs, Vice Chair
Nancy Hanson, Chair
Hampshire College Farm, Manager
Cup and Top Café, former Owner
SideHill Farm, Co-owner
Mapleline Farm, Owner
Greenfield Vehicle Inspection Center, Owner
Shawn Robinson, Clerk
Prospect Meadows Farm, Farm Director
Fertile Grounds, Founding Director
UMass Stockbridge School, adjunct
Pete Solis, Treasurer
Mockingbird Farm, Owner
Old Friends Farm, Co-owner
Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife,
Chief of Wildlife Lands
Special Projects Director
Local Hero Manager
Hover, click, or tap the charts below for more information. Download this pdf for a comparison with FY2017.
CISA is proud to work with many partners throughout Massachusetts and beyond. To learn more about our partner organizations, click here.
To learn more about our funding partners, click here.
View a complete list of our current business partners.