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CISA's Farmer Panel
CISA's Farmer Panel

Nancy Hanson, CISA board member and Hampshire College CSA Farmer, remembers how startled she was to hear farmers called heroes at the launch of CISA's Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown® campaign. Hanson grew up on a farm in Connecticut, and in 1999 she was a recent transplant to the Pioneer Valley. "I thought I was on another planet ... I never wanted to be a cult hero, but to the community here, farmers are cult heroes," Hanson remembers. 


These heroes grow food, get it to market, manage employees, care for land, and support other local businesses. A growing number of them are new, first-generation farmers, who developed the plans for their new farm businesses while learning from other farmers or from training programs like the one at Hampshire College. It's in part thanks to their hard work and creative enterprises that we're boldly putting forth a goal for the Pioneer Valley: to double the amount of local food we eat to 25% over the next 20 years.


Hanson spoke at a farmer panel last month kicking off the celebration of CISA's 20th anniversary year. Since 1993, we've been connecting farmers and the community, working together to create a culture of support, enthusiasm and commitment for local farms and food businesses that attracts young farmers, feeds more people, and keeps our dollars in our local area. Throughout this year, we'll be celebrating the successes we've achieved together with your help and planning for our future work -- we hope you'll join us!


Phil Korman

Executive Director


PS:  Don't forget to think local for Valentine's Day! Prepare your sweetie a cozy winter feast, spice things up with local hot sauce or sweeten them with maple, or find locally-grown, sweet-smelling freesias at LaSalle Florists.


'Tis the Season for Syrup and CSA Signups!

Find sources of hot pancakes and fresh syrup here. Call ahead as sugarshacks will open up over the next couple of weeks.


CSAs offer fresh food, farm connections, and opportunities to meet other people who like to eat and cook local food. There are lots to choose from, offering vegetables, fruit, meat, grain, dairy products, and more, as well as a variety of options for payment, pick up or delivery, and add-on options like eggs or flowers. For the best choice, and to give farmers a hand with seasonal planning, sign up now! See CISA's list of farms offering CSA shares and our Guide to Choosing a CSA.


Vacation Farm Camps

Looking for something for your kids to do during February, April, or summer vacations? Find our farm camp listings here.


Winter Fare wrap-up

In January and February, CISA partnered with winter farmers' markets in Amherst, Greenfield, Northampton, and Springfield for a special Winter Fare market day. Over the past five years (since the very first one-day Winter Fare celebration in Greenfield in 2008) the number of ongoing winter markets has grown from zero to seven, and local farmers have made significant investments in order to provide product year-round.  CISA's goal was to bring more publicity and customer traffic to the markets by introducing new people to the joys of eating seasonally all year round. Winter Fare shopper surveys showed that, on average, 25% of visitors to the markets that day were there because of Winter Fare activities, and 20% had never attended the market before.  Don't forget that the winter markets run right up until the summer markets begin in the spring!


New Research on Meat Processing

Do you wish you had a source for local hot dogs, prosciutto, or salami? CISA is working to research new options for meat processing in Massachusetts. If you'd like to provide input, contact Sam Stegeman at We're grateful for research assistance from the UMass Isenberg School of Management and funding from the USDA and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources through the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program.


Intern Opportunities at CISA
We have openings for spring semester interns! For details, click here


Farm Workshops Ahead

CISA's "Financial Management and Business Decision Making" workshop series continues. In addition, we're planning workshops on energy-efficient refrigeration and the USDA's new microloans. Find more information here.  


Chicoine Family Farm Profile 

When Chicoine Family Farm started raising grass-fed beef in the 1970's, it wasn't the norm. "The level of awareness around food has grown dramatically since then," says Bill Chicoine. "There's been a lot of education - just an awakening in general about what people are eating and where it's coming from." Read more here about these changes and many others the Chicoine Family Farm has experienced over eight decades of farming in Easthampton. 


Farms and Food in the News

Visit CISA's Press Room to catch up on all the stories from CISA's four special Winter Fare markets and CISA's January 31st farmer panel, "Looking Forward, Looking Back." Also, listen to interviews with Mountain View Farm, Hedgie's Hot Stuff, and Carr's Ciderhouse. 


New USDA Microloan Program

The USDA's Farm Services Agency is considered the lender of "first opportunity" and "last resort" for farm businesses. Nonetheless, their requirements have made it hard for start-up farms to receive operating loans. A new microloan program offers new farms a route to loans up to $35,000, allowing them to bypass requirements that they provide financial records by naming a farm mentor. Carrie Novak, the FSA Senior Loan Officer in Massachusetts, notes that these loans will allow FSA to better serve the creative new enterprises which are an important part of the future of agriculture. CISA and FSA will offer a workshop on these loans in March, so watch our Workshops and Assistance webpage for details.

Visit CISA's events calendar for a full listing of workshops, festivals, forums, films, and more. Here is just a small sample of what you'll find on our website.   


Network & Quench Your Local Thirst at the BridgeSide Grille
Thursday, February 21, 5 PM-7 PM
BridgeSide Grille, 9 Amherst Rd, Sunderland, MA
This month Pioneer Valley Local First is partnering with CISA, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, and InCommN on our monthly business networking event called "Local Thirst" at BridgeSide Grille in Sunderland. Join us after work and unwind over food and drink with owners of local, independent businesses and other good folk. Treat yourself to the great food, full bar and local beer that BridgeSide Grille has on their locally inspired menu.  Click here for more information.

Cravings: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction
Saturday, March 9th, 8 PM
Academy of Music, 274 Main St, Northampton, MA
The Academy of Music Theatre presents CRAVINGS: Songs of Hunger and Satisfaction, a KoTheater Works production, featuring Boston's favorite cabaret singer, Belle Halpern. CRAVINGS is a funny and thought provoking look at our search for what feeds us: food, sex, acceptance, fame and true nourishment. Halpern serves her audience songs ranging from Tin Pan Alley classics by Berlin and Bernstein to contemporary ballads and Yiddish showstoppers, spiced with a comic personal narrative reflecting her Jewish-American culinary journey. As Halpern prepares the traditional Passover dish charoset, her humorous take on our search for what feeds us steeps into a life-affirming call to taste the sweetness in the everyday. Co-sponsored by CISA. Click here for more information on tickets and pricing. 


Are you a CISA member? Join more than 800 others in supporting CISA's work. We've been sustaining local agriculture by building connections between farmers and the community since 1993!


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