Drought-ravaged farms eligible for no-interest loans through Deerfield nonprofit CISA

The Republican, September 19, 2016, by Mary Serreze.

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, or CISA, has reopened its revolving Emergency Farm Fund to help area growers that have suffered losses due to the extended drought.

“This summer’s unprecedented drought has impacted farms of all kinds,” said Philip Korman, CISA’s executive director. “Most of the farms in our region are equipped to manage dry spells with irrigation and careful management, but this is well outside the norm, and many farms are in need of financial support.”

The non-profit is offering zero-interest loans up to $10,000 to farms in Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties. The application period will close on October 21, 2016. Information can be found here.

Additional drought relief is available through the Baker administration’s Drought Emergency Loan Fund and through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency Emergency Loan Fund. CISA’s program supplements that public safety net with no-interest, quick-turnaround loans.

As of last week, nearly 90 percent of the state was in a state of “severe drought,” according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Farmers have reported significant losses.

This year CISA also helped growers who lost peaches, plums and cherries due to the February cold snap. Last week the group finalized $43,000 in loans to five area orchards. Even without the harvest, the farmers still incurred costs. The loans are designed to tide them over.

The emergency loan fund was launched in 2011 in the wake of Hurricane Irene, with partners Whole Foods Market and Equity Trust. CISA’s loan review committee includes people with a variety of agricultural backgrounds. Those who wish to donate to the fund may contact Alexis Schneeflock at 413-665-7100 or donate online.

CISA is an organization of farmers, community members, and advocates working to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy in Western Massachusetts.