To hear Jess Marsh Wissemann of Warner Farm in Sunderland tell it, her experience farming in the Pioneer Valley has been as much about community as it has about vegetables. “I married a 10th generation farmer who works the same Sunderland soil as his family has for almost 300 years,” she says. “He works 12 hour days alongside his father from spring until winter. Warner Farm was local long before it was cool, way back in 1720. I’m told that the family farm has seen many ups and downs over so many years, and there were certainly entire generations – and even times within memory – when farming was not a stable living.
“Enter CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) and their Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown® marketing and education program. CISA has transformed the agricultural system in the Pioneer Valley and paved the way for so many farms to not only stay in business in the face of a global industrial food system, but to thrive. CISA’s work provided the foundation for our farm to diversify and expand in ways that strengthen the farm and the community. Fields that used to only grown potatoes for national distribution now produce everything from eggplant to sweet corn for local grocery stores, co-ops, farmers markets, local restaurants, and even a CSA. Our food truly feeds our community now, in large part because of CISA's work to establish a robust local food economy. “As a member of a multi-generational farming family, one of the things I appreciate most about CISA’s work is the community they have forged between all of the Valley farms. This close network of farmers bridges generations, growing practices, philosophies, politics, and products.”
Since 1993, CISA has worked to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy by creating and running programs that link farmers, community members, and markets. In addition to the Local Hero program, which promotes the importance of local food and offers technical assistance to farms and local food businesses, CISA’s other programs include:
- SNAP & Save, which offers a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $10 per visit, on SNAP benefits spent at farmers’ markets, making local food accessible to more people in our community
- Senior FarmShare, which provides summer farm shares to over 450 low-income seniors in the Pioneer Valley
- The Emergency Farm Fund, which offers zero-interest loans to farms in our region dealing with the effects of natural disasters
At CISA, we believe that we can double the amount of local food in the diets of Pioneer Valley residents, making local food a full 25% of what we eat by 2035. Join us in working to make the Pioneer Valley food economy more sustainable, diverse, and equitable.
To donate to CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), follow the link provided and click on Add to My Donation Basket, or use the code 685610 on your paper pledge form.