Opinion: Local farmers need our continued support

Published August 12, 2023 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Greenfield Recorder

Learn more and support the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund here.

The widespread flooding that hit our region in mid-July illuminates many truths: the vulnerability of many local farms, the hard reality of climate change, and the amazing response that is possible when the community, non-profit and foundation partners, and government all step up and work together.

Paul Shoul photo

Current estimates are that more than 100 local farms were affected by the floods and that they lost a combined $15 million in crops but long-term effects are still being counted. The flooding came on the heels of two freezes that damaged peach, blueberry, and apple crops, and has been followed by continued heavy rains that have deluged even non-flooded fields. As our climate changes, these extreme weather events will become more common.

The response, from the generosity of individual donors to the speed with which our state government has acted, has been stunning. The governor just signed a supplemental budget that includes $20 million in disaster relief to cover crop losses. CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund is offering no-interest loans up to $25,000 to affected farms, and a recent disaster declaration will make low-interest federal loans available, too.

What is missing is money to cover all the other losses that farms have suffered, including the destruction of property and equipment. The new Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund can help fill this gap, and they’ve set an ambitious fundraising goal of $5 million to quickly get grants to farms.

Farmers are resilient and they are adapting to their new reality but they will need continued support and a robust emergency response system as the climate changes. You can support them, as always, by buying local, and you can help build up the MA Farm Resiliency Fund now so it’s there in the future.

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Philip Korman, executive director at CISA (Community involved in Sustaining Agriculture), South Deerfield