Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture: Annual Report 2020

Responding to a Year of Crisis

Holyoke Senior Center Holyoke Senior Center  Paul Shoul photo

2020 was a year of loss, worry, and intense work for everyone on the planet, though clearly not in equal doses. And yet locally, hope was served up daily as local farms and other food businesses, and the essential workers who propel them, responded heroically to keep our communities fed.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the growing season had only just begun for most local farms. Some farms suffered immediate losses to their sales, as winter farmers’ markets, restaurants, and schools were forced to close abruptly, and weddings and other public events were cancelled. Other farms were only just filling up their greenhouses in anticipation of the summer months.

As we all moved from shock to response, it became clear that the crisis required challenging adaptations, and that farmers would have to make vital decisions even as the available information was changing rapidly.

At CISA, we were right there with farms and other Local Hero businesses. We helped them parse mountains of complex and rapidly-changing regulations, raised funds and provided emergency farm loans, helped farms submit grants for state emergency funds, and hustled to ensure access to current information for consumers on over 350 farms, restaurants, and other businesses.

As hunger rates skyrocketed in the state, we worked to expand access to SNAP and HIP, and to develop deeper relationships with partners that are focused on food justice. As essential workers, including farmworkers, faced daily risk to make food available to our communities, we advocated successfully for COVID-19 testing and distributed PPE to farms. And as we move into 2021, we have been advocating to make vaccines accessible to those who grow and harvest our food.

The pandemic has revealed deep flaws in our national food system and how it is woven with the threads of racism and income inequality. Those threads are also embedded in our local food system. The pandemic has thrown these inequities into sharp relief, and deepened our resolve to create a local food system that empowers and feeds us all. This change is only possible with the involvement and support of our donors, members, partners, and businesses supporters—we can't do this work without you!

Respectfully yours,

Philip Korman, CISA Executive Director
Philip Korman signature

Philip Korman
Executive Director

Al Griggs, CISA Board President
Al Griggs signature

Al Griggs
CISA Board President

Pandemic Response

Pandemic Response

We kept pace with the stresses COVID-19 placed on our local food system, supporting local farms and food businesses and our larger community as we navigated this challenging year.

The Atherton Farm, Buckland   Scott Streble photo

Pandemic Response

Direct support to local farms and food businesses

CISA’s technical assistance team stepped up in 2020 to help farms and other local businesses adjust to changing circumstances so they could keep their businesses afloat and keep feeding our communities. Highlights:

PPE distribution PPE distribution at the CISA office   CISA photo
  • CISA staff provided an immense amount of one-on-one support to farms and local food businesses to help them navigate new regulations, develop new online ordering platforms and delivery services, rework their business plans, and much more.
  • We supported 41 farms and businesses in applying for funds from the state’s $36 million COVID-19 Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, resulting in $1.8 million in grants.
  • Throughout the pandemic, CISA staff analyzed and clarified relevant regulations, public health protocols, and resources for farms and farmers’ markets which we shared on our COVID-19 Resources webpage and sent directly to impacted farmers. This vital information got heavy traffic on our website.
  • We worked with the FRCOG (Franklin Regional Council of Governments) to ensure that farms were able to participate in bulk PPE orders and CISA’s office served as a distribution point for much-needed gloves, masks, and face shields.
  • Farmers’ markets needed additional support to open in both spring and late fall of 2020, and CISA staff helped them establish the new mandatory safety protocols and secure permissions from their host cities and towns.

Emergency Farm Fund

CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund provides zero-interest loans to help farms get through disasters, and 2020 marked the first time we opened the Fund in response to a non-weather event. Through two rounds of lending, the Fund disbursed $272,000 to 17 farms throughout Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties.

These rounds of lending also marked a new partnership between CISA, the FCCDC (Franklin County Community Development Corporation), and the PVGrows Investment Fund. Our combined resources increased the pool of available funds from $150K to $400K and enabled the Fund to make larger loans to more farms.

Reed Farm, Sunderland, Novella Photography Reed Farm, Sunderland  Novella Photography
“We’re still a new business that needs to make investments so we can grow, and one of the things that we planned on buying this summer was a refrigerated truck. That’s a necessary piece of equipment for a poultry business. We lost the income we were relying on to make that purchase when restaurants and caterers closed this spring, so we used our Emergency Farm Fund loan to cover those losses and buy the truck so we could continue to operate throughout the summer.”
—Peter Laznicka, Reed Farm, Sunderland


Building Community Support For Local Farms

One unexpected response to the pandemic was a surge of consumer interest in local food. People were concerned about the availability of food, about shopping in crowded stores, and about the fate of local, independent businesses, and all these factors resulted in an unprecedented shift in shopping habits.

During the summer of 2020, CISA surveyed 800 farm store and CSA customers and found that 64% of respondents were buying more local food because of COVID-19, and 27% of respondents were new customers of the businesses from which they received the survey.

CISA’s online guide to local food and farms saw a 200% increase in traffic in 2020, and we kept it updated with details about new COVID-19-specific services like online ordering and curbside pickup.

In addition to sharing practical information about local farms and their products, we provided opportunities for farmers and others to share their stories, and shared CISA’s analysis of complex issues. This was more important than ever in 2020 as we folded coronavirus updates and reflections into our ongoing media segments.

Highlights from CISA’s 2020 radio interviews, columns, and videos:

Atlas Farm, Deerfield Atlas Farm, Deerfield  Atlas Farm photo
Atlas Farm Makes Quick Switch to Curbside Only
WRSI, March 30, 2020

Gideon Porth talks about the quick switch to a curbside pickup model at his Deerfield farm stand, and how adapting to sudden changes is familiar to farmers. Listen:


Randall’s Farm Ludlow Randall’s Farm, Ludlow  Randall’s Farm photo
Randall’s Farm and Greenhouse Has Been Adapting to Change for Generations
WRSI, September 18, 2020

Karen Randall talks about how her family business has changed over the decades, how they’ve adapted to COVID-19, and what it’s like to run a business with her sisters. Listen:


A Silver Lining for Farmers in an Uncertain Time
Daily Hampshire Gazette, October 6, 2020

Farmers are doing what they’ve always done: growing food and figuring out how to get it to people. Still, the real financial reckoning won’t be clear for months, and farmers are continuing to make plans for an uncertain future. Read more …


A New Farm Store for Carr’s Ciderhouse
October 7, 2020

Nicole Blum and Jonathan Carr highlight the range of delicious and creative cider products they make—from hard cider and vinegar to shrubs and switchel—and show off their brand-new farm stand. Watch:


River Valley Co-op, Northampton River Valley Co-op, Northampton  
River Valley Co-op photo
River Valley Co-op
WRSI, October 30, 2020

Rochelle Prunty, General Manager, talks about the importance of co-ops, the 420 local food producers they source from, and the immense changes the store had to make in response to the pandemic. Listen:



Feeding America has projected that COVID-19 will increase hunger rates in Massachusetts by 59% — the biggest increase in the country. That means that hunger is estimated to affect 14.2% of the state’s population, or over 978,000 people.

Mountain Orchard, Granville  CISA photo


Healthy Incentives Program

Winter Farmers’ Market at the Hampshire Mall Winter Farmers’ Market at the Hampshire Mall  CISA photo

The Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) provides an instant rebate when Massachusetts residents use SNAP to buy fruits and vegetables directly from participating local farms. HIP has helped 89,000 families purchase $22 million of local produce since its inception in 2017. CISA is one of many organizations throughout the state that supports and advocates for this program, and we serve as a link between HIP vendors and HIP customers.

In 2020, the MA Department of Transitional Assistance opened up the program to new farmer vendors. CISA staff supported farms and markets in navigating the application process, and 39 new vendors statewide were added to the program.

CISA joined with partners, led by the MA Food System Collaborative, in successfully advocating for funding that would enable HIP to run throughout the year. In addition to $5 million in CARES Act funding, the state budgeted $13 million in FY21.


Incentive Program Keeps Us All Fed
Daily Hampshire Gazette, March 25, 2020

“HIP is important to me because I receive very little in SNAP benefits, so it helps me buy vegetables to complete the month. When HIP stops, I not only eat less vegetables, but I have to worry about using the little I receive in SNAP benefits for the whole month.” Read more …

Senior FarmShare

Holyoke Senior Center Holyoke Senior Center  Paul Shoul photo

Since 2004, CISA’s Senior FarmShare program has provided low-income seniors with 10 weeks of fresh, local vegetables at the height of the growing season. In 2020, we expanded the Senior FarmShare program to serve 450 seniors in partnership with 11 local farms and 14 distribution partners, including senior centers, councils on aging, and senior housing facilities.



Feedback from Senior FarmShare participants:
“I got some veggies I rarely (or never) ate before. So I looked up info about them and I found some healthy recipes. Having the farm share gave me options I wouldn’t have otherwise had. My diet became much healthier (more fiber, vitamins, etc.)”
“My doctors all tell me to eat more veggies. This summer I ate plenty of greens, tomatoes, etc. Thanks to the farm share!”

Read More

Addressing the Hunger Cliff
Daily Hampshire Gazette, July 27, 2020

The spread of hunger is one of the many devastating human costs of the pandemic. Creative partnerships around our region—involving local non-profits, municipalities, schools, activists, and local businesses—have gotten food to people who needed it throughout the pandemic. Read more …

Farm Labor

Farm Labor

CISA works with farm owners, farmworkers and the organizations that represent them, and others to build equitable, economically viable working conditions on farms.

Bardwell Farm, Hatfield   Leslie Lynn Lucio photo

Farm Labor

Our 2020 winter workshop series focused on Farm Labor Management. Workshops focused on practical skills for farm owners and managers, including tools for developing consistent policies and employee management practices, setting clear performance expectations and evaluation, and conflict resolution. Workshops also developed skills in managing across cultures with humility and respect and building a positive workplace culture through active bystander training.

CISA partnered with the Employers Association of the NorthEast (EANE) to give farmers free human resources consulting on a broad range of topics from COVID-19-related sick time to workforce training.


“As a young business starting out, there is so much information and help that CISA gives you. Everything from how to hire, how to do the accounting, how to work with your employees. And so we really have to put in a thank you. For the longest time we were doing all of this ourselves, milking the goats, cleaning the barns, making the soap, delivering the soap. Through the help of CISA we’ve been able to pick out how to hire people and how to pay them and how to train them.”
—Stan McCoy, Sage Meadow Farm, Easthampton


When 2020 started, our approved budget was a balanced one. And then in March, the year of fear and uncertainty began. One week after a state of emergency was declared, we made the leap of faith that the community would support CISA’s work for local farms and local food access. The community quickly responded and donated $100K to reopen our Emergency Farm Fund.

We knew that the over 350 farms and businesses that were part of our Local Hero program needed us, so we ensured that inability to pay would not get in the way of their membership, even though we knew it would affect our bottom line. And like other organizations, we had to cancel all our in-person events for the year. This concerned us because of the risk of losing connection to our community and financial support.

Most importantly, our faith in the community was borne out with year-end support that was so, so generous. Miraculously, we ended the year with a small surplus of our total budget. Private foundations that have known and respected our work and funded it for years also came through by altering their traditional grantmaking to allow for quick, accessible COVID-19-related support.

We took risks, and we did what had to be done for our farms, our neighbors, and our community. And because of you, we are powerfully positioned to strengthen local agriculture and engage the community in building the local food economy we all deserve.

Thank you to our donors!

Hover, click, or tap the charts below for more information.

Download this pdf for a comparison with FY2019.

Revenue and Support
Net Assets

We’d like to thank all our business sponsors. Your investment in the community is tremendous and appreciated! A special callout to our top business supporters in 2020:

River Valley Coop
Greenfield Northampton Cooperative bank
Farm Credit East PeoplesBank UMass Five College Federal Credit Union

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.

Staff and Board

Staff and Board

Board of Directors as of 12.31.20

Insiyah Bergeron
ICA Group, Cooperative Developer

Glenroy Buchanan
Pioneer Valley Growers Co-op, Owner

Ben Clark*
Clarkdale Fruit Farms, Owner

Al Griggs, Chair

Helen Kahn, Clerk
Northampton Tuesday Market, Manager

Amy Klippenstein
Sidehill Farm Yogurt, Co-owner

John Kokoski
Mapleline Farm, Owner

Steve Kulik
Former State Representative

Myra Marcellin
Farm Credit East, Vice President and Sr. Loan Officer

Caroline Pam
Kitchen Garden Farm, Co-owner

Shawn Robinson, Vice Chair
Prospect Meadow Farm, Farm Director

Catherine Sands
Fertile Ground, Founding Director
UMass Stockbridge School, adjunct

Pete Solis, Treasurer
Mockingbird Farm, Owner

Casey Steinberg*
Old Friends Farm, Co-owner

Tessa White-Diemand
Diemand Farm, Manager

Elizabeth Wroblicka
Conservation Works LLC, Partner


Noah Baustin*
Communications Coordinator

Alexis Breiteneicher
Development Director

Dan Burke Pérez
Local Hero Program Assistant

Larkin Christie*
Interim Program Assistant

Margaret Christie
Special Projects Director

Kelly Coleman
Program Director

John Eichholz

Emma Gwyther*
Development Associate

Philip Korman
Executive Director

Claire Morenon
Communications Manager

Jacob Nelson
Communications Coordinator

Stevie Schafenacker
Program Coordinator

Zoey Sloate
Program Coordinator

Devon Whitney-Deal
Local Hero Manager

Jennifer Williams
Office Manager

Kristen Wilmer
Program Coordinator

TerraCorps Service Member

Sarah Lucia

*Stepped down in 2020