Editorial: We Applaud CISA’s Crops Assistance

The Recorder, August 2nd, 2016. For more than two decades, the farm-booster organization known as CISA — Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture — has been a very public presence in the Pioneer Valley.

It’s most recognizable for its “Be a Local Hero” promotional campaign, the one that reminds people to think about buying fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meat, maple syrup and other locally grown foods from the many farms that dot the region. The campaign is to strengthen the connection between the consumer and our area’s farmers, leading to sustainable and local food production that benefits consumers and growers.

But CISA is doing more than just trying to remind people to buy local. Its advocacy has expanded to broaden their marketing reach and to help farmers directly.

We were reminded of that when CISA announced recently that it was opening up its emergency farm fund to help those farms and orchards that saw their peach and other stone-fruit crops severely curtailed by the deep freeze in February. Farmers in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties who suffered such losses can apply for zero-interest loans up to $10,000 to help get past this season.

“Having weather be seemingly more unpredictable means a lot more stress and anxiety for farmers all the time, and it just makes it that much harder to do what they do day in and day out,” CISA Executive Director Philip Korman said. “To have a little bit more of a safety net can give that kind of support in more unpredictable times.”

This isn’t the first time CISA has acted to provide financial aid. The emergency fund was first established, in partnership with Whole Foods Market and Equity Trust, in response to the damage to farms following Hurricane Irene. The storm hurt roughly 6,300 acres of farmland in western Massachusetts.

CISA’s fund wound up aiding 11 farms in Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden counties to the tune of $93,000. And while the loans didn’t match the losses incurred by these farms — storm-related losses ranged from $12,000 to $250,000 — the loans nevertheless helped shore up the local safety net.

Just as these farms appreciated what CISA was doing five years ago with Irene, the farms using this emergency fund now no doubt value the helping hand. And it demonstrates the commitment to our community behind CISA’s advocacy.

At this point, we can’t imagine our community and its farms, without CISA.