CISA seeks $500K to bolster farm fund

Mike Antonellis, owner of Antonellis Farm, right, looks out over his flood-damaged fields with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern and state Sen. Jo Comerford in Deerfield this past summer.

Mike Antonellis, owner of Antonellis Farm, right, looks out over his flood-damaged fields with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern and state Sen. Jo Comerford in Deerfield this past summer. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 11-22-2023 6:11 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — With farmers facing two straight challenging summers, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture is launching a fundraising campaign that will expand access to local produce and prepare farmers for a changing climate.

After a soft launch earlier this year, CISA’s Growing Resilience Campaign is now open to the public, as the agency seeks to raise $500,000 in the coming months to reach the campaign’s goal of $1.8 million, of which $1.3 million has already been pledged by private individuals, foundations and businesses.

The fund will provide money for a variety of CISA’s programs and services, including supporting farmers’ infrastructure projects, expanding the community’s access to locally grown food, deepening equity and diversity and providing technical assistance to farmers in the region.

“It’s looking ahead,” said CISA Development Director Wendy Ferris. “It’s taking what we know and what we do and being more proactive about our services and making sure we have the resources so we can be nimble.”

CISA originally began discussing the campaign a year and a half ago and it just so happened the region suffered through another year of tough agricultural conditions, which only makes this fund more relevant.

“We took a look at what was happening in the region and identified the pressing trends and challenges that were affecting farmers in our region and the issues CISA could lean into,” Ferris said, adding the 2022 droughts and 2023 rainstorms were “definitely not what we were hoping for, but it does feel like the awareness among the community about how hard it is to farm has certainly increased after two extreme years.”

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The campaign is geared toward being proactive to climate change by providing technical assistance to farmers to help them achieve grants for costly climate-resistant infrastructure, as well as more general business support to make farms stronger and more efficient.

Another key goal, Ferris said, is expanding the community’s access to food and one of the priorities of the the campaign is to double the number of its low-income senior farm shares. In this program, CISA currently pays farmers to grow produce for 500 senior members and it is aiming to use some of the money raised to bring that up to 1,000 shares.

Ferris said CISA is hoping to meet its goal in “early 2024” and the fund will be used to fill gaps and add to CISA’s capacity through 2030, according to the campaign’s case statement. It will also be available to cover unanticipated needs that emerge in the coming years.

To learn more about the Growing Resilience Fund and to donate online, visit CISA’s website at buylocalfood.org/growing-resilience. Donations by check will also be accepted and can be mailed to CISA at 1 Sugarloaf St., South Deerfield, 01373 and addressed to the Growing Resilience Fund. One-time donations and pledges for up to five years are accepted.