Federal Grant Will Help Keep Local Farms in Business

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 26, 2016, by Chris Lindahl

A $595,500 federal grant awarded to Community Involved Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) will allow the nonprofit to help jumpstart beginning farms and sustain growing ones through workshops and one-on-one technical assistance.

The three-year U.S. Department of Agriculture grant will allow CISA to provide resources to newer farmers across the state through its own programs and those provided by sister organizations in each corner of Massachusetts.

The grant will help provide a boost to farmers just starting out in the fertile Pioneer Valley, said Philip Korman, executive director of CISA.

“Statistics nationally have shown that 45 percent of farmers in their first 10 years of business will not succeed,” he said. “It’s so important to reach these farmers in their first 10 years of business.”

Of CISA’s 271 “Local Hero” farms, 100 have been in business 10 years or less, according to Korman.

“I think it’s a challenge for all of us as a community that they have the highest chance of success as possible,” he said.

CISA will start rolling out workshops funded with the grant by next spring. Past workshops have included a series dedicated to women farmers, marketing and financial planning. The grant will also help pay for one-on-one technical assistance delivered by outside experts such as graphic and web designers or branding consultants to successful local farmers, Korman said.

“We pay another farmer who’s had an amazing farm stand in another part of the county or another county to sit down with that farmer and help him set up a farm stand,” he said.

CISA will also work with other organizations throughout New England, such as Land for Good, which helps retiring farmers keep their land for agricultural use, and Carrot Project, which provides loan to farm and food businesses, Korman said.

Many local farmers have already benefited from CISA’s workshops and technical assistance. Danya Teitelbaum, who owns Queens Greens in Amherst with partner Matt Biskup, has made use of several of CISA’s programs.

Prior to the founding of the company in 2010, Teitelbaum took a winter-long business planning course through the nonprofit. Since then she has taken a wholesale marketing workshop, which she said helped her hone her skills to target specific segments of the market among other classes.

Six years ago the farm started as a one-acre, winter-only operation that sold exclusively at farmers markets. Now, it grows year-round on 33 acres and sells exclusively to wholesale customers, from Johnny’s Tavern to River Valley Co-op to Smith College.

“CISA has been really helpful getting different types of knowledge at different points of our business,” she said. “I think as our business grows, CISA will continue having different workshops that are relevant.”

Most recently, Teitelbaum has sought help from CISA through one-on-one marketing consultation.

Davon Whitney-Deal, CISA’s “Local Hero” program manager, said such consultations are usually entirely grant-funded and provided at no cost to farmers. Though larger projects, such as complete rebrandings, could carry some additional costs for farmers, she said.

Other experts CISA has tapped to help farmers include Quickbooks experts, for those interested in tightening their bookkeeping, to graphic designers to help with package designs

The organization is also helpful when it comes to meeting others in the industry. Teitelbaum has met buyers for her products and networked with other farmers, she said.

“They’re a really important support to the local farm community,” she said.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at