Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) strengthens farms and engages the community to build the local food economy. Working in western Massachusetts since 1993, CISA offers training and technical assistance to farms and food businesses, supports local sourcing and infrastructure development, and partners with others to ensure that all members of their community have access to locally grown food. Their Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown® marketing and education campaign, founded in 1999, includes more than 400 business members—farms, restaurants, retailers, institutions and specialty foods producers.
Support from Farm Aid allowed CISA to improve services offered to farmers through two loan funds. CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund provides interest-free loans of up to $10,000 to farms affected by weather-related disasters. The Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund, administered by the Franklin County Community Development Corporation in partnership with CISA and several other community lending organizations, provides financing and technical assistance to farm and food businesses through investments. With Farm Aid’s help, both funds improved the farmer-friendliness of their inquiry forms and application process. Since its founding in 2011, the Emergency Farm Fund has loaned $221,000 to 25 farms.
Additionally, in 2013, CISA created an annotated guide to Massachusetts regulations governing food safety at farmers’ markets, as there is a wide amount of variability in the requirements and enforcement for sales at markets. The annotated guide suggests best practices and helps farmers communicate effectively with their Boards of Health or Health Departments.