Building a case for local agricultural infrastructure

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2009: $24,968.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Grant Recipient: Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Margaret Christie
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA)

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy)
  • Animals: bovine, goats, poultry, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Sustainable Communities: community development, infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Farmers in Massachusetts have had tremendous success in selling product directly to consumers and wholesale accounts: farmstands are busy, community supported agriculture farms have waiting lists, and more and more restaurants and cafeterias source local product. As further evidence of this robust local market, the Commonwealth ranked seventh in the nation in total value of farmgate sales and first in average direct sales per farm (2002 Census of Agriculture). However, the ability of farmers, in this region and elsewhere, to continue to grow and expand their direct sales to consumers and wholesale accounts is limited by a lack of local processing infrastructure. CISA has spent the last year and a half researching three infrastructure gaps: local dairy processing, meat processing, and ready-to-eat greens processing. Without these local processing options, many farmers have been unable to take full advantage of the growing demand for local product. By early spring 2009, CISA and our partner farmers will have completed analyses of the financial feasibility of additional processing facilities in each of these three areas. Based on the preliminary findings, several groups are exploring their options for developing agriculture processing infrastructure and have begun to identify ownership structures, funding sources, and locations. Through the proposed project CISA and our collaborators will research and write up case-specific rationales to articulate the broader community benefits of individual infrastructure projects. In each case, these statements will help our partners access financing and gain public support for infrastructure projects, and will educate the general public about the complex needs of agriculture. To the extent possible, we will research the impact of infrastructure investment on jobs, the local economy, and land use. Building on the specific findings of these three projects we will also create a general case for investment and support of local agricultural infrastructure that will support future development of infrastructure projects. Finally, CISA will draft a guide and tool kit to help other organizations and farmer groups initiate their own infrastructure feasibility projects. These activities will raise awareness about the impacts of local agriculture infrastructure on community economic development and encourage consumers and funders to support the development of sound local agriculture processing.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Research and write up case-specific rationales for investment to articulate the community benefits of individual projects, to help our partners access financing and to gain public support. At least one of these case studies will also include a valuation of the economic benefits including the likely impact of the proposed project on the region’s farm sales and income, agriculture-related jobs and employment, local economy and land base.
    2. Compile individual cases into a general case for investment and support of local agriculture infrastructure.
    3. Develop a guide and tool kit to help other organizations and farmer groups initiate their own infrastructure feasibility projects and assess the economic impact of new infrastructure. We hope that this guide will provide a methodological template that could be transferred to other infrastructure projects both in the region and across the country.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.