Coronavirus response: Emergency fund aims to raise $50,000 for struggling farms

A fund offering zero-interest loans to farmers is looking for a boost in donations as coronavirus shutdowns have caused major losses for farmers that primarily sell their fruits and vegetables to restaurants and colleges.

South Deerfield-based Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture is an organization that offers assistance to farmers, provides farm shares for low-income seniors, and runs the agricultural buy local campaign “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown.” The organization has created the emergency fund and is looking to raise at least $50,000 by March 31.

“Many small farms are balancing so many needs right now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from providing food to our community, keeping their customers and staff safe, and figuring out how to keep their businesses afloat as markets close and sales shrink,” said Philip Korman, the organization’s executive director.

Donations are now being accepted and can be made at River Valley Coop and The Beveridge Family Foundation have kicked off the campaign by each committing $5,000 to this round of funding.

“If we want our farmers to survive and thrive, then we need to be there for them when disasters strike. This Emergency Farm Fund can do just that by providing quick and immediate help to farmers in our region,” Korman said.

The Emergency Loan Fund will begin taking applications on April 1. The Loan Review Committee includes a team of people with a variety of agricultural backgrounds and will include representatives from the CISA staff and board, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, and farmers.