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Business Assistance

CISA provides numerous opportunities for farmers to grow their business and agricultural knowledge. We provide in-house assistance, as well as referrals and funding to meet one-on-one with outside professionals with a wide variety of expertise.

Below are some of the areas in which we may be able to assist you. If you have a need in one of these areas – or have an idea that’s not listed here – please contact us. Fill out our Online Request Form to let us know what type of assistance you’re looking for, or call us at 413-665-7100 with any questions.

In many cases, we are able to offer farms free or low-cost business assistance. See more details below on some of our current funding opportunities for business assistance.

Our work is focused in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin Counties, MA and adjacent towns. We welcome those outside of this region to reach out to us as well. Referrals, recommendations, and initial phone calls are always free.

Current Funding Opportunities

CISA’s business assistance is made possible through private and public grants, which cover CISA staff time and outside consultant/mentor fees. Depending on the type of assistance you need, we may have funding to cover part or all of the cost of the assistance.

Requests for business assistance funding are considered on a rolling basis until funding runs out or until the deadlines below. When we have limited funds, decisions are made based on individual needs and funding priorities. See below for more information on our current funding opportunities.

Climate Change Adaptation

CISA offers grants of up to $3000 to support farms and farm-related businesses seeking to expand practices that foster adaptation to climate change and contribute to the resilience of the local food system. Funds can be used for consultations with experts, project design and planning, grant writing, and general advice and mentorship from CISA technical assistance providers.

In most cases, funds cannot be used for infrastructure and materials, however when such costs are low relative to the overall project budget they will be considered.

Farms interested in improving and/or implementing climate change adaptation practices and who demonstrate a commitment to building a an inclusive and resilient food system in the Pioneer Valley are encouraged to apply.

To request support, complete the Climate Change Adaptation Grant Application Form. For questions or if you’d like to discuss your project before applying, please email Stephen Taranto at stephen@buylocalfood.org or call (413) 665-7100 ext. 17.

Farm Business Support

For farms seeking consultations, technical assistance or mentorship to improve current business practices and/or farm viability. Funding will cover support in any of our business assistance topics. We encourage folks to apply who would benefit from outside expertise to establish clarity and learn valuable tools for sound business decision making. In-depth assistance refers to work that involves more than an hour of consultation time or significant funding for outside support.

Who:

  • Farmers with less than 10 years experience as farm owners or principal operators, or
  • Farms that sell direct-to-consumer including to restaurants and institutions, or
  • Established farms that have been in operation for at least 2 years, employ less than 20 people, and need support to stabilize or expand their business

Funding: Varies by project, need, and funding source between $200 and $1500

Deadline: Requests accepted on a rolling basis.

Food Safety Support

Funding is available to support farms and aggregators with food safety improvements, regulatory compliance, and employee training. Funding can be used to help farmers understand regulatory requirements; develop or implement record-keeping systems, SOP’s, and food safety plans; make infrastructure investment decisions; and more. Funding can also be used to develop food safety training and signage for farm employees, especially (but not limited to) those with low English or literacy skills.

Who: All farmers seeking support with food safety in crop, livestock, value-added operations, as well as aggregators of local farm products. Farmers seeking support training employees in food safety.

Funding: Varies by project, need, and funding source. Up to five hours of individualized CISA staff support is available per farm to help develop food safety plans and procedures, provide produce safety training to employees, and more. Funding may also be available to cover fees for food safety consultants to prepare for third-party audits or assist in other areas.

Deadline: Requests accepted on a rolling basis until funding runs out.

Labor Management Support

Funding is available to support farmers in developing employee policies or employee manuals, understanding employment laws, providing anti-discrimination/harassment training to managers or workers, standardizing employee benefits, improving workplace communication, and more.

Who: Farmers seeking labor management support, including established employers and farms preparing to hire their first employee.

Funding: Varies by project, need, and funding source. Up to five hours of individualized CISA staff support is available per farm, and funding may also be available to cover fees for attorney review of employee manuals, consultations with professionals at the Employers Association of the NorthEast (see details below), or other outside consulting fees.

EANE Hotline: CISA has partnered with The Employers Association of the NorthEast (EANE) to give farmers access to human resources consulting and support services. CISA members may consult with EANE’s professionals to inquire about best practices, HR challenges, employee benefits, and resources on everything you need to create a successful workplace. To take advantage, call EANE directly on their toll free hotline at 877-662-6444, and mention that you are calling as a CISA member farm. EANE‘s hotline is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm and is staffed by regional certified HR professionals, including two employment law attorneys. For farms needing more in-depth support from EANE’s professionals, CISA may be able to provide funding for longer consultations. For more information about EANE visit their website.

Deadline: Requests accepted on a rolling basis.

Value Added Enterprises

Funding is available to farm businesses who need help navigating from concept to market: finding production space, product development, understanding labeling requirements, creating food safety plans, and accessing financing. In addition, funding can cover support with business and marketing planning, financial record-keeping, enterprise analysis, and employee training.

Who: Farm businesses creating new or improving on existing value added enterprises.

Funding: Varies depending on project.

Deadline: Requests accepted on a rolling basis until funding runs out or until 9/30/2022.

Or call our office at 413-665-7100 with any questions.


General Business Assistance Topics:

Labor Laws & Management • Employee Training • Employee Manuals & Policies • Food Safety Compliance • Sustainable Farming Practices • Marketing, Branding and Online Content • Merchandising • Business Planning • Financial Recordkeeping • Financial Analysis and Planning • Grants & Financing • Land Access and Leasing • Value-Added Products • Farmers’ Market Support • SNAP & HIP Support


CISA’s technical assistance offerings are supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, under Federal Award Identification Number FA-MA-6-007, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 16FMPPMA0002, and by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award 2016-70017-25423, and by individual contributions and Local Hero members. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.

With respect to any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein, neither the United States Government nor Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights.  Users bear the sole responsibility for decisions affecting program participation and may want to consult other resources.

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