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 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.

In Depth 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:

  • 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, or
  • Any farms that sell their products wholesale to aggregators, buyers, retail outlets and restaurants.

Funding: Up to $1000 is available per farm.

Deadline: Requests accepted on a rolling basis until funding runs out or until 2/1/2020.

Support for Sustainable Farming Practices

Funding is available to cover in-depth assistance to help farms seeking to improve upon or implement new systems related to sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation and mitigation, or resource conservation. Funds cover consultations, design, auditing cost shares, specialized contractors, or general advice and mentorship.

Who: Any farmers interested in improving or implementing sustainable farming practices and/or who currently demonstrate a commitment to sustainable agriculture and seek support in sustaining their business.

Funding: Up to $2,500 is available per farm. Funding up to $1,000 is available for assistance that indirectly supports the environmental sustainability of a farm by improving the farm’s economic viability.

Deadline: Requests accepted on a rolling basis until funding runs out or until 2/1/2020.

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: Up to $1,000 per farm is available to cover fees for food safety consultants or translators/interpreters to support employee training in food safety. Farms may also take advantage of up to ten hours of individualized CISA staff support.

Deadline: Requests accepted on a rolling basis until funding runs out or until 2/1/2020.

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, improving workplace communication, and more.

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

Funding: Up to five hours of individualized CISA staff support per farm. Limited funding may also be available to cover fees for legal review of employee manuals or other outside consulting fees.

Deadline: Requests accepted on a rolling basis until funding runs out or until 2/1/2020.

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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