Berkshire Agricultural Ventures taps Rebecca Busansky for permanent Executive Director role

This week, Berkshire Agricultural Ventures named Rebecca Busansky as its new Executive Director after two and a half years of Glenn Bergman’s interim leadership. The nonprofit supports local farming and local food by offering economic development tools to farms and businesses in parts of New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Busansky previously worked as Program Director for the Franklin County Community Development Corporation and managed the Mass Food Trust Program since its creation in 2018. Busansky spoke with WAMC.

BUSANSKY: I have been working in the Pioneer Valley for over a decade. The last eight and a half years I spent at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation. I’ve worked to launch the PVGrows Investment Fund, which is a community investment fund that works with farms and local food businesses on loans and technical assistance, as well as the Mass Food Trust program, which is about getting more healthy, affordable food into low income, low grocery access areas. So, I really have been working in the food system space for about a decade in Western Mass. Different section, but all part of Western Mass, and really specifically working on farms and ag and how we are going to work to grow those businesses and help them really thrive in lots of different ways.

I’m interested in your aerial, bird’s eye view of the current state of the agricultural community in Western Massachusetts- Give us your sense of where the agricultural world is at as of spring 2023.

Yeah, well, I mean, I think it’s been a bumpy road, especially with COVID. The pandemic really threw a curveball to lots of farm and food producers, and some were able to pivot more evenly, some got hit harder. And I think, especially, I think there’s been a lot of specialized funding and grant opportunities that have come up for, especially for farmers in the region. But part of the complexity is really helping those farmers access those resources. And I think that’s where organizations like Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, the Franklin County CDC, others across the state, really work to help farmers access the resources that are out there. We’ve set up a system of lots of different types of supports, but it’s a system that a lot of times folks need help navigating and connecting with and I think that’s an important part of the role, so, that we play, and I think we’re at a place now where some things have kind of begun to settle down, we’re starting to see more consistency of some shopping habits and behaviors. But there’s no question that the pandemic really shone a light on where the shortcomings are in our food system, and what we need to kind of buttress and build up to build a more sustainable food system. And I think Berkshire Agricultural Ventures is an important part of that, our focus on meat processing and climate change mitigation practices, along with the kind of deep food access work we do around the Market Match funds, these are really important parts of the food system that we need to help support and grow, to really create a more equitable food system for all.

Give us a sense of your docket for coming into Berkshire Agricultural Ventures- What’s on the top of the list for things you want to address at its head?

You know, one of the great things about coming to Berkshire Agricultural Ventures is that we have this incredibly strong staff and board that has just been doing great work building out the meat processing work, the climate change work, Market Match, and then in general, the lending that we do for farms, really flexible, low interest, patient capital that farmers need to succeed, as well as just general technical assistance, sort of business coaching the business side of farming, which is really where a lot of farm and food businesses, in my experience, what I’ve found, is that that is really what they need at this time. They’re really good at growing. They love it, they’re passionate about it, but they may not be as familiar with or knowledgeable about QuickBooks, or accounting or marketing, all those other kinds of parts of running a business. And that’s where they really need a lot of support. And so, I feel like I’m in a really fortunate position to step into this great organization and help it continue to grow. And right now, those are sort of the areas that were really hard at work at, and then we’ll see where we go from there.

On the legislative level, what kind of goals or objectives do you have for the agricultural world in Berkshire County when it comes to your communication with state leaders?

Oh, yeah, that’s a really good question. I think that we have- I think there’s a lot of opportunity for Berkshire Agricultural Ventures, and I think BAV has taken advantage of a lot of those opportunities, but I think there’s some more coming down the pike with the regional food business centers and other kinds of sources of ARPA funding that’s kind of coming. And so I look forward to being a part of sort of taking advantage of those opportunities. And I come into this role with good relationships at the state level, across the commonwealth, and I look forward to building those same sorts of relationships since we also serve Litchfield County, Dutchess and Columbia counties. So yeah, that’s going to be great fun for me.

Is there anything that you feel like is underdiscussed or underreported about the world of agriculture in Western Massachusetts that you’d like to bring to the fore?

I think there’s an opportunity- I think I’m going to be kind of discovering that in the next few months as I get to know the Berkshires better. My initial sense from just having stepped into this role is that there really is an opportunity to really spread the word about the great work that Berkshire Agricultural Ventures is doing, so, it feels like it’s known to a certain degree within the Berkshires, but it does feel like there’s opportunity to get it better know across the state and in the other areas that we work in.

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