DEERFIELD, Mass. (State House News Service) – Pioneer Valley farms that were flooded out during July will soon receive $10,000 checks from a fundraising campaign launched by the Healey administration and United Way of Central Massachusetts last month.
About 100 farms will be awarded money from the Massachusetts Farm Resiliency Fund in the first “equitable distribution” round, said Tim Garvin, CEO of the United Way of Central Massachusetts. Garvin said the fundraising, compared to the process for appropriating state dollars, allowed officials to be more nimble after estimates pointed to at least 75 farms that sustained flood damage.
Farmers filled out a registration form, Garvin said, that outlines losses from the flooding, resources they’ve relied on to manage those losses, and funding that’s needed to fill the gap. Stakeholders are developing the parameters for a second round of funding, which will address farms’ individual financial needs, crop losses and insurance coverage, among other factors, Garvin said.
The fund just surpassed raising $3 million, and Garvin said the goal is to reach $5 million by the middle or end of September. About 650 donations from individuals, families, private philanthropies and businesses been received since July 20, he said.
“If we raise more than $5 million, even better. When we add up how much was requested, it’s more than $25 million,” Garvin said. “That demonstrates the need and the loss is greater than we had even initially believed.”
Officials in July had pegged losses to be at least $15 million. Meanwhile, Sen. Jo Comerford said she expects the $20 million allocated for western Massachusetts flood relief aid in a recent supplemental budget “will move very quickly.”
The Department of Agriculture Resources is working to finalize eligibility criteria and open the application process, she said. Farmers can also apply for low-interest loans and refinance existing loans through the federal disaster declaration in seven Massachusetts counties, though Comerford said that doesn’t provide immediate money. Comerford emphasized farmers are “very proud people” who want to earn a good living.
“They also really want us to know they want to just do their job, and it is more and more difficult to do their job in the face of climate change,” Comerford said. “The private fundraising is important because there’s still just so much need.”