Local Non-Profit Offering Loans to Orchards

Western Mass News – WGGB/WSHM

Western Mass News, August 1st, 2016, by Samara Abramson and Ryan Trowbridge.

The leafy trees at the back of the main building of Outlook Farm are supposed to be bursting with flavorful peaches but they stand instead as fruitless reminders of a cold weekend last February.

“We had two days where it was 18, 20 below zero and that’s a killer for peaches most of the time,” said Outlook Farm owner Brad Morse.

Morse is referring to Valentine’s Day weekend – known to farmers as a deadly cold snap for produce – a weekend that has had a lasting impact throughout the state including Morse’s Westhampton farm.

So a local non-profit organization, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) is working hard to make sure that residents of Western Massachusetts have access to local produce.

CISA is offering a $10,000 loan to orchards impacted by that February cold snap.

“We open it up after natural disasters that have an impact on local farm,” said Kelly Coleman of CISA. “The intent is that it’s really an emergency funding source.”

The organization does not ask farms to pay for the first year.

“We try to set up a payment plan that works for the farm but has payment within three years,” said Coleman.

Morse is just one farmer who is considering applying.

“It would give us a little bit of flexibility until we see where we are with the rest of our crops,” said Morse.

The CISA Emergency Farm Fund launched in 2011 as a response to the damages that Western Massachusetts farms suffered after Hurricane Irene.

This is only the third time the group has offered the zero-interest loan.

“We’ve seen over the years the weather become much more sporadic and that having an impact on local farms,” said Coleman. “As an organization our goal is to engage community support for local agriculture.”

The deadline to apply is August 26.