Streams of Assistance
Call it a flood of support at a critical time.
On July 20, the Healey-Driscoll administration and the United Way of Central Massachusetts (UWCM) announced the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund, a partnership between philanthropic organizations and private foundations intended to support Western and Central Mass. farms impacted by recent flooding and strengthen farm resiliency in the long term. Officials made the announcement at Mountain View Farm in Easthampton, which had much of its crop destroyed by flooding.
“We seek to ensure that this coordinated effort provides immediate relief that works for farmers and addresses longer-term food-security issues for vulnerable residents of our region.”
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources estimates at least 75 farms have been hurt by flooding, with about 2,000 acres in crop losses at a minimum value of $15 million. That number will likely climb as more damage is assessed and the longer-term impacts set in.
“As the lieutenant governor and I have visited farms across the state, we’ve been deeply moved by the devastating impacts we’ve seen and heartbreaking stories we’ve heard. We’re grateful to our philanthropic and private partners for quickly answering the call to action and creating this fund to deliver relief directly to farmers,” Gov. Maura Healey said. “This is about team Massachusetts — where we come together to support farmers and their livelihoods, build resilience for our farms and food supply, strengthen our economy, and create a stronger future for our children and families.”
Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll added that “Governor Healey and I have heard firsthand from dozens of farmers who are grappling with the aftermath of extreme flooding and trying to figure out how they’re going to make ends meet and keep their farms. We’ve been inspired by their resilience and the pride they take in their businesses, which play an essential role in our state’s food supply and economy. The Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund will be a lifeline for so many dedicated farmers and their families.”
Several nonprofit leaders were quick to commit to supporting farmers through the fund.
“In light of the devastating impact of recent floods, the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts is committed to supporting the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund,” CFWM President and CEO Megan Burke said. “We seek to ensure that this coordinated effort provides immediate relief that works for farmers and addresses longer-term food-security issues for vulnerable residents of our region.”
Philip Korman, executive director of Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), added that “this month’s rains and floods, occurring in the middle of the summer harvest, will have a bigger impact on our farms than Hurricane Irene. It has been heartening to see the community rally around our local farmers, the very people who feed our families. The newly created Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund is a powerful example of what can be created when government, foundations, businesses, and nonprofits like CISA work together. The fund will be an essential piece of helping farms recover and will serve as part of the safety net to future climate change events.”
“The flooding has decimated folks’ businesses, jeopardized their livelihoods, and has had a tremendous impact on our Commonwealth’s agricultural sector and our food supply as a whole.”
Meanwhile, Mark Gold, director of the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation, praised the administration for addressing flood relief in a timely manner. “Our foundation remains committed to providing support to those farms impacted by the recent floods along the Connecticut River Valley and others to which we and our partners have provided support over the past nine years.”
Local legislators were quick to praise the joint effort between government and philanthropic community.
“Farms throughout Western Massachusetts have been devastated by the recent flooding in our region, and the full scale of damage is unfortunately expected to grow even more,” state Sen. John Velis said. “The flooding has decimated folks’ businesses, jeopardized their livelihoods, and has had a tremendous impact on our Commonwealth’s agricultural sector and our food supply as a whole. I am grateful to the Healey-Driscoll Administration, UWCM, and all the philanthropic and private foundations for their fast work in creating the Farm Resiliency Fund and for their commitment to helping our farmers get back on their feet.”
State Rep. Natalie Blais agreed. “Following the devastation caused by recent rains and flooding, the Healey-Driscoll administration stood with us, in our fields, to hear directly from farmers,” she said. “I am profoundly grateful to our community for coming together to support farms across the state, and for Governor Healey’s commitment to the long-term sustainability of agriculture and our local food systems.”
Tim Garvin, president and CEO of United Way of Central Massachusetts, called the new fund “a most beautiful demonstration of real partnership, united in compassion and united in purpose to support and assist our farmers,” adding that he is hopeful that many will be inspired to contribute.
“As someone who sees the devastating impacts of the recent flooding every day, I am extremely grateful for the quick efforts of the Healey-Driscoll administration and the United Way of Central Massachusetts to put the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund in place,” state Sen. Jo Comerford said. “We must continue to take concrete steps to help the farmers who so desperately need our quick action and sustained efforts to help in their recovery.”
Comerford also praised the state Senate the following week for passing a $513 million supplemental budget for FY 2023 that includes $20 million in assistance for farms throughout the Commonwealth impacted by recent severe weather events.
“These public funds will go out as direct grants,” she explained. “That’s money in the pockets of farmers who have experienced a massive hardship in the wake of the extreme flooding earlier this month and the frosts and freezes this past spring.”
Other organizations have stepped up to help as well, such as UMassFive College Federal Credit Union, which recently announced a donation to aid local farms impacted by the flooding, including Natural Roots Farm, Mountain View farm, Pepin Farm, Community Care Apothecary, Song Sparrow Farm, Stone Soup Farm, New Community Farming Cooperative, World Farmers’ Flats Mentor Farm, and the Grow Food Northampton Community Farm.
“We are deeply connected to our community and our members, and we understand the critical role that local farms and local food play in our lives,” said Craig Boivin, vice president of Marketing at UMassFive. “Our donation to the local farms impacted by the floods is an expression of our gratitude and commitment to helping our neighbors in their time of need.”
As for the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund, all funds will be distributed rapidly by the United Way through a deliberate selection process. More information about the fund can be found at unitedwaycm.org/farmfund.
“For generations, our farms have been part of our cultural heritage and the fabric of our local communities,” Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner Ashley Randle said. “As heartbreaking as it has been to see our farming community hit hard, I’m truly inspired to see the community step up and rally around our farmers with this partnership that will bring much-needed relief.”