Several farms in western Massachusetts have been thrown on a financial lifeline as they seek to rebuild their businesses during the pandemic.
The community involved in sustainable agriculture announced this week that interest-free loans totaling $ 183,000 have been made to 13 farms. Requests for additional loans from a revolving emergency fund will be accepted as of June 1. WAMC Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with CISA Executive Director Philip Korman.
Farms are considered – they must be essential businesses in any pandemic or non-pandemic situation, as our farms grow the food we can put on our tables and feed our families. What really impacted the farms were other sectors of the economy that had to shut down. So the farms lost markets when it came to restaurants, institutions, and colleges, and even our winter farmer’s markets closed because they were inside the spaces, and that was February and we still hadn’t figured out how to do things safely when it came to buying food.
So how does the emergency fund help in this situation?
Thus, the emergency agricultural fund, which has existed since the end of 2011, does not grant any interest loans to farms, and farms do not have to repay part of it during the first six months. He therefore offers loans in conjunction with the Franklin County CDC, ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 25,000. So it allows farms to keep going even though they have bills to pay as they discover new markets and we seriously begin to enter the growing season.
Will the opening of farmers’ markets and farm stands help?
It will certainly help a lot of farms when they can sell directly to their neighbors and a lot of farms are based on those markets. So when farms open their farm stands — and by the way, right now there are a lot of farms that have little farm stores like little grocery stores, and that area of what they can grow and sell. increased. So it’s about giving — these loans give farmers a chance to shift their focus and focus to try to open up new markets and sell more into the markets they already have. You know, I think a lot of us are realizing that it is our local neighbors who are farmers who are making a difference for us and feeding our families during this epidemic. And the supply chain the moment that strawberry or asparagus is picked and comes to our table, so a lot less hands are touching that product. I just hope we are all focused on our farms right now and understand how deeply dependent we are on their good work that they do every day.
How many farms were helped in this last round, and what are your plans for the emergency agricultural fund for the future?
So the emergency farm fund for COVID-19 we were able to do, 13 farms received loans totaling over $ 180,000. We will open the fund for a second round from June 1st. And applications must be sent before June 22. And we predict that we could then spend the remaining $ 220,000 on interest-free loans.
Where does the money for fun come from?
The money for the fund comes, in CISA terms, from the community. We have raised this money from amazing community members who understand how important our local food supply is, how our neighbors are farmers. For example, CISA is providing 150,000 of the total $ 400,000 to the Franklin County CDC, which has been an extraordinary partner in this series of emergency farm funds. They had investors who had set up the Pioneer Valley Grows investment fund. And that money comes from this investment fund.
This is the first time this emergency fund has been used for a non-weather emergency. So, have the criteria for obtaining a loan changed?
It is correct to say that this is the first pandemic we have experienced to this degree and 100 years and every farm has been affected. So we opened it up to all farms to ask for it. We ask them to say how they were affected. But otherwise the criteria are the same in the past. This was a unique weather event and you would simply show why Hurricane Irene impacted your farm. So in a way it’s the same as you show how COVID-19 has impacted your farm.
And these are farms all along the valley, aren’t they? Isn’t that just one region?
Correct. This is the three-county area of Hampshire, Hamden and Franklin counties and the range of farms included farms focused on maple syrup, flowers, vegetables, cider, mushrooms or fruit. It was a wide variety of farms that applied.
And I think you mentioned it, but when are you going to resume applications?
Applications will be taken from June 1, and all information will be online before this date at via buylocalfood.org