$87K grant to help CISA market local food producers
Published on 01/3/23 in the Greenfield Recorder
By CHRIS LARABEE, Recorder Staff Writer
SOUTH DEERFIELD — With farms and other locally grown produce generating large amounts of revenue for the region, an $87,000 state grant awarded to Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) will ensure local producers can compete with larger chains.
The grant, provided by the Department of Agricultural Resources, will help CISA promote and market local farms in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties with the familiar “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown” signs, along with social and traditional media outreach. CISA Executive Director Philip Korman said there are roughly 7,750 farms in the state that generate nearly $500 million in revenue each year, and this grant will go toward supporting those farms and the local economy.
“When you think about the marketing budget those national corporations have … it’s worthwhile that public policy in Massachusetts is supporting agriculture and local family farms to be seen and be visible for what they grow,” Korman said. “If we don’t do a great job, then we lose out to the Wal-Marts of the world.”
Korman said CISA’s broad goal is to “deepen our Locally Grown campaign” by increasing cash receipts at a minimum of 65 farms in the three counties; increasing consumers’ engagement with local agriculture; and providing direct assistance to farms to help them engage in better marketing tactics themselves.
These goals come at an important time, Korman said, as CISA has identified that consumer patterns are shifting to their pre-pandemic status, so the boost many farms and farmstands were seeing is now dropping.
“People felt safer going to farmstands and small farm stores over supermarkets in 2020. That actually shifted some of the consumer patterns, and as the pandemic has eased up, people have started going back to where they have traditionally shopped,” Korman said. “We want to try and help farms hold onto the new customers that came to them during the height of the pandemic.”
Korman added that CISA is trying to connect farms with consumers of all income brackets while also trying to increase the demand for local food, “thus increasing sales for local farms.”
Beyond its already established campaigns, Korman said CISA plans to “do a tremendous amount of media outreach” with the goal of gaining at least 400,000 impressions on social media and at least 100 stories from news outlets that mention local farms or CISA.
Korman said this grant is an important one for CISA and other agricultural organizations that focus on locally grown food around the state.
“We make the case to the legislators every year to please have this competitive grant process and we’ve been fortunate to have it in the state budget for over a decade,” Korman said, noting that CISA received this Department of Agricultural Resources grant for the first time in 2008.
State Rep. Natalie Blais, D-Deerfield, said in a statement that the state has heard CISA and other organizations’ call for continued funding. She added that supporting these programs benefits everyone.
“The local food system here in Massachusetts has the strong support of our Legislature,” Blais said. “We are grateful for the efforts of our Buy Local organizations in supporting farmers, educating consumers and increasing demand for healthy, local food.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at email@example.com or 413-930-4081.
Philip Korman, at left, executive director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), speaks during a tour of Reed Farm in Sunderland in September 2021. An $87,000 state grant will help CISA promote and market local farms in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties with the familiar “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown” signs, along with social and traditional media outreach. Recorder STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ