Financial Help Available for Peach Farmers Hit by February Cold Snap

MassLive, July 26, 2016, by Mary Serreze.

Quick turnaround zero-interest loans are now available for peach growers in Western Massachusetts who lost their crops due to the February cold snap.

CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) announced today it has reopened its revolving Emergency Farm Fund to aid farms whose stone fruit crop was damaged by the extreme weather. The freeze was damaging because the winter had been warm, and the fruit buds were not hardened to the cold.

“Many peach growers in our region lost their entire crop, and other stone fruits such as plums were also damaged,” said Philip Korman, CISA’s executive director. “Farmers who lost their crops now find themselves in a difficult cash situation since there is no income coming from a peach harvest.”

Korman said the no-interest loans up to $10,000 can help farmers continue until their next crop comes in “without resorting to drastic measures.” The application period will close August 26. Information can be found at

The fund was launched in 2011 in response to damage caused by Hurricane Irene. It was catalyzed by a $50,000 matching grant from an anonymous donor. Whole Foods Market and The Farm Table at Kringle Candle each contributed $20,000. Equity Trust, a small national non-profit, is a major collaborator, as is Whole Foods.

CISA distributed $93,000 in small loans to eleven farms in 2012. The fund was reopened in 2013 after a February blizzard damaged greenhouses, and $30,000 in loans were distributed to three farms.

The program can supplement government programs, said Korman, because the small loans can provide assistance right away. The loan review committee includes staff from CISA and Whole Foods, Equity Trust, the state’s Department of Agricultural Resources, and farmers.
CISA’s goal is to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy. It has provided technical and marketing assistance to farmers over the years, but lending was a new venture.

Large donors have included Farm Credit East, The Beveridge Family Foundation, Easthampton Savings Bank, Smith College, Florence Savings Bank, and Deerfield Academy. Many individuals and small businesses chipped in as well, said Korman.

Working in the region for over 20 years, CISA offers technical assistance to farmers, works to make local food more accessible, and runs the nation’s oldest buy local campaign — “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown.”