Farm Credit East Cares

In July 2023, prolonged heavy rainfall caused catastrophic flooding across much of Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and parts of New York. Coming on the heels of a damaging frost a few months earlier, the storm was a blow to the agriculture industry, with more than $16 million in reported losses in Vermont.

Farm Credit East, the Enfield, Connecticut-based financial cooperative, serves farmers, fishermen and forest products producers in eight Northeast states. Following the July floods, the organization announced that it would provide up to $250,000 in relief through its Farm Credit East Cares program.

Sara Pulver is a credit representative with Farm Credit East and saw firsthand much of the damage.

“Crops and fields were flooded not only with the rain but the runoff coming from the mountains,” said Pulver.“The extent of the damage almost seems unreal. Towns were completely cut off from the main roads, and people desperately needed help.

In addition to its donations to charitable relief organizations, Farm Credit East Cares offered $500 individual grants to impacted farmers and forest product producers.

CoBank was our first supporter when we established Farm Credit East Cares.

“This was really a return to the roots of our program,” said Craig Pollock, senior vice president and coordinator of Farm Credit East Cares. “Farm Credit East Cares was established in 2012 after the Northeast agriculture community was devastated by Hurricane Irene. At the time, we didn’t have a mechanism in place to respond. Our employees' desire to help our customers and communities led to the founding of Farm Credit East Cares, which was started with seed money from Farm Credit East and CoBank.”

The very first effort of Farm Credit East Cares was a $500 direct grant program for farmers.

“We knew our role was not to be a replacement for insurance or governmental efforts," continued Pollock. “But we also knew that many people just needed a helping hand for pressing needs such as groceries, personal items and general necessities."

More than a decade after its launch, the third direct grant program of Farm Credit East Cares was well received by customers. Chandler Goodhue, also a credit representative at Farm Credit East, says that although the grants were small, they were greatly appreciated.

“I spoke to one of our customers who received a grant,” said Goodhue. “He had estimated losses of nearly $300,000, but he passed that $500 on to his employees. He knew that he and his family had resources to fall back on, but many of his employees did not. He was so grateful for the helping hand and the chance to look out for others.”

CoBank, a fellow member of the Farm Credit System, supported Farm Credit East with a $50,000 contribution toward its flood relief efforts.

“CoBank was our first supporter when we established Farm Credit East Cares,” said Pollock. “It has a strong sense of commitment to the community and often partner with us in our efforts. It’s great to know that we share the same goals and values. We both keep then good of the rural community foremost in our minds and are committed to providing support in times of need. We could not do this important work without its continued support.”

Since its inception, Farm Credit East Cares has provided more than $1.5 million in donations to farm families and organizations assisting producers affected by disaster events; to charitable organizations such as the American Red Cross, United Way and food banks; and to local, regional and state not-for-profits focused on agricultural youth or local agriculture promotion.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2023 Sustainability Report.