Farmers receive first round of CISA loans to help through pandemic

The Recorder, May 26, 2020. By ANITA FRITZ, Staff Writer

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) has given local farmers a total of $183,000 in loans from its Emergency Farm Fund to help them through the pandemic.

Executive Director Philip Korman said the South Deerfield- based organization, in collaboration with the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Greenfield and the PVGrows Investment Fund in South Deerfield, gave the zero-interest loans to 13 farms that have in some way suffered losses because of COVID-19. He said the fund will reopen its application process for a second round of loans on June 1.

“This is the first time that we have opened the Emergency Farm Fund for a nonweather event,” Korman said. “It is the first time in this century that we are experiencing a pandemic that literally affects every single farm. Farms have lost existing markets and need to implement new safety practices. Our aim is to provide support in places where we see gaps in current programs, both public and private. We need to protect our local food supply and keep our local farms farming.”

The lending marks a new partnership between the three organizations with combined resources totaling $400,000 in loan funds.

“This new partnership meant that the fund could make larger loans available to more farmers,” Franklin County CDC Executive Director John Waite said. “In an unprecedented crisis like this, it’s more important than ever to look for new ways to work together and to leverage all available resources.”

Farms producing a range of products in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties received loans during the first round, including Reed Farm in Sunderland, a poultry farm and small-scale poultry processing facility.

“We’re still a new business that needs to make investments so we can grow, and one of the things that we planned on buying this summer was a refrigerated truck,” Reed Farm owner Peter Laznicka said. “That’s a necessary piece of equipment for a poultry business. We lost the income we were relying on to make that purchase when restaurants and caterers closed this spring, so we used our Emergency Farm Fund loan to cover those losses and buy the truck so we can continue to operate this summer.”

Laznicka said the farm is once again delivering processed chickens to local markets for sale to the public.

“The loan was a real help,” he said.

Other Franklin County farms that received loans include Headwater Cider Co. in Hawley, LaSalle Florist in Whately, Mycoterra Farm in South Deerfield and Sweethaven Farm & Flowers in Ashfield.

The CISA Emergency Farm Fund was launched in 2011 in response to the damage suffered by farms in Western Massachusetts due to Hurricane Irene.

The fund is managed by CISA, and loans granted in response to COVID-19 are administered by CISA and the Franklin County CDC. The Loan Review Committee includes people with a variety of agricultural backgrounds, including farmers, CISA staff and board members, and representatives from the Franklin County CDC, PVGrows, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Equity Trust. Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 at