PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Agricultural Ventures (BAV) announced it has been awarded a $5,000 grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to support its Resilience Fund for Farmers.
This new fund was established in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting impact on local farmers, who are hurting right now as stores, restaurants, and other income-generating avenues like farmers’ markets and CSA are closed or operating in different, logistically challenging ways due to the virus. Despite these challenges, many farmers are reaching out to contribute healthy food to the neediest among us and sell as much as they can directly to consumers.
The goal of the BAV Resilience Fund for Farmers is to support those who are experiencing business challenges as a result of COVID-19. Zero-interest, forgivable loans and grants will be provided to help farmers adapt to new realities, overcome significant income challenges, and ensure that farms remain viable and sustainable so they continue to meet demand for healthy, local foods.
In addition to working with individual farmers, BAV also hopes to support strategies that avoid costly duplication of effort among farmers, such as developing coordinated delivery services. The first grant from the fund helped Roots Rising to pivot and establish the Berkshire County-wide Virtual Farmers Market, which in its first eight weeks served 1,400 households, gave $18,000 to neighbors in need, and generated $50,000 in sales to support the local food system.
The grant from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank represents the first corporate support to the fund, which was established with a grant from a local family foundation.
“We are very grateful for this generous gift from Pittsfield Cooperative Bank to our Resilience Fund for Farmers. The grant will allow us to provide deeper support to our key constituents, the farmers who are providing our neighbors with fresh, healthy, and local food,” said Cynthia Pansing, BAV executive director.
J. Jay Anderson, president and CEO of Pittsfield Cooperative Bank, added that the bank “is proud to support the work of the Berkshire Agricultural Ventures and the Resilience Fund for Farmers during this extraordinary time. At a time when local food systems and healthy food is important to our communities more than ever before, we thank them for their work.”