Conway farm launches GoFundMe following flooding; CISA aid available to other farmers

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 07-14-2023 3:22 PM

CONWAY — With Natural Roots anticipating a total loss of its main fields following Monday’s flooding, the farmers have started a GoFundMe to help recoup their losses.

After assessing the damage left in the wake of the storm, alongside visits from representatives of the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Natural Roots has launched a fundraiser with the goal of raising $85,000. The GoFundMe can be accessed at gofund.me/38d662ed.

“The financial implications from this event are insurmountable without community support,” farm manager Brittany Terry said in a statement. “Losses like this are impossible to absorb into the shoestring margins that farms like ours already work within. As resilient and adaptable as we are, we will be unable to keep our farm going without help, so we have launched a GoFundMe to raise the $85,000 we need now to cover our lost income and rebuild our farm.”

When Monday’s torrential downpours ran through the region, Natural Roots, a horse-powered, community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm on Shelburne Falls Road in Conway, took one of the worst hits in the county. The South River ran over its banks and swept 4 feet of water over the farm’s main fields, flattening, uprooting and destroying the crops planted there.

With a tight-knit community in Conway, alongside the more than 200 families participating in the CSA, Natural Roots has seen a lot of support in recent days. The morning after the flood, dozens of volunteers made their way to the farm to help clean up debris, and local and state politicians, like Rep. Natalie Blais, have also visited to survey the damage and offer support.

That support continues, with more than $34,000 raised as of 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

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“The full extent of the flood damage is still unfolding, but it is our intention to continue to steward this land and offer nourishment to our community,” owner David Fisher, who founded the farm in 1998, said in a statement. “We are profoundly grateful for all of the community support we are receiving through this extremely challenging time.”

CISA reopening Emergency Farm Fund

As Natural Roots’ peers around the county also assess the damage, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) has partnered with the Franklin County Community Development Corporation and the Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund to reopen its Emergency Farm Fund.

The Emergency Farm Fund offers zero-interest loans of up to $25,000 for farms in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties that are struggling to meet their immediate financial needs because of income, crop or equipment loss due to weather events. Farms affected by this week’s flooding and the spring’s two separate freezes are eligible.

“As weather patterns shift and extreme weather becomes more common due to climate change, CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund is here to provide zero-interest, quick-response loans to help farmers make it through so they can keep farming,” CISA Executive Director Philip Korman said in a statement. “We’re grateful to our partners and to the many members of our community who have donated to the fund so that we can be there when farms need this kind of emergency support.”

Reviews of loan applications will begin on Aug. 1 and applications will be accepted through Oct. 1. Application information can be found at buylocalfood.org/eff. Donations to the fund can be made at buylocalfoord.org/emergencygive.

The Emergency Farm Fund was established in response to Hurricane Irene in 2011, and has provided nearly $500,000 to 54 farms. It is administered jointly by CISA and the Franklin County CDC.

“It’s heartening to see the quick response of many farm service providers and the western Mass legislative delegation, and we also know that the fast turnaround time that the Emergency Farm Fund can offer, in addition to the zero-interest loan terms, fills a vital gap in the safety net that is available to farms in the wake of such emergencies,” John Waite, executive director of the Franklin County CDC, said in a statement. “The Pioneer Valley Grows Investment Fund is funded by community members who care about our food system, so these emergency loans are a perfect use of these resources.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

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