November 12
AJP co-sponsored this year's BOB Talk at Pie Ranch. Thank you for a wonderful event and to all who attended! 

November 18 - 20
Thank you to all those that attended our workshop at Growing Power's National International Urban and Small Farms Conference “Lets Scale it Up! Growing Food and Farmers: Best practices in growing, distribution and community building”

November 29
#GivingForDignity on #GivingTuesday DONATE today and be part of the change!

December 9 - 11
National Domestic Fair Trade Conference Portland, OR

January 14 - 16
Future Harvest CASA'S: Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed annual conference in Hyattsville, MD

January 20 - 22
NOFA-NY Winter Conference: Long Live the Farmer in Saratoga Springs, NY

January 25 - 28
EcoFarm 37th Annual Conference: Cultivating Diversity in Pacific Grove, CA
We are excited to announce our newest AJP Board Members, Jessica Culley of Farmworker Support Committee/Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas (CATA) in New Jersey and Jen Salinetti of Woven Roots Farm in Massachusetts. 
Above is a summary of Fair World Project's latest report, Justice In The Fields where they evaluated seven domestic fair trade labels based on monitoring, enforcement, worker empowerment, health and safety, housing, and wages. Food Justice Certified received the Highest Ranking of the Fair World Project (FWP) assessment of labels! 

Competent and thorough assessments like this one are important for the public and the food justice movement to understand the different fair claims in the marketplace.

The scope of FWP's assessment focuses on how these labels address farmworkers, whose conditions are often the most invisible in our food system. The Agricultural Justice Project recognizes that some of the same underlying mechanisms that create injustice for farmworkers also create injustice for others who labor in the food chain. In response, the Food Justice Certified program includes farmers (fair pricing and fair agreements) and other food system workers and businesses, which are important to include when working toward a total transformation of the food system into one rooted in empowerment of all those who have been marginalized by the current system. 
Cultivating Change: Connecting Race, Soil & Healing is the Theme for Food Justice Certified Farm Pie Ranch's BOB talks
Similar to TED talks, BOB = Big 'Ole Barn is a series of short and sweet talks with an emphasis on food and farming hosted at the farm.

On November 12th Pie Ranch hosted their 4th BOB Talk. Speakers included the social justice educator, activist and writer Paul Kivel of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). Paul is best known for his work around uprooting racism and getting white people involved in social justice by forming multi-racial alliances. He talked about the history of white colonialism and land dispossession in our country and a corporate disinvestment in protecting both indigenous peoples and our natural resources. 

Pie Ranch Board member Joy Moore gave an energetic and enthusiastic talk on spirituality, healthy food and racial justice. Joy declared that “food is the meaning of life” and encouraged the audience to ​​  get involved in food sovereignty through gardening and growing food in their local community. Joy talked about misconceptions around skin color and brought attention to the fact that black, white, red, and yellow are in no way an accurate depiction of the diverse color pallet that make up the true colors of our skin and the human race.

Kelly D. Carlisle has dedicated her life to creating positive change in her native city of Oakland and she is the Founder and Executive Director of Acta Non Verba a youth urban farm project. Kelly closed out the BOB Talk with the reminder that
"It is up to us to report, record and follow through on observations of injustice."

We the People have the power to make a difference and hold our government and law enforcement accountable and we must speak up and come out of the silence.

The Q&A that followed drew participation on a variety of other social justice issues such as white privilege, homophobia, classism and slave labor. During this time each person in the room was called to stand if they were wearing an item of clothing that might have been made by an exploited labor force or if they had driven in a gasoline fueled vehicle that today.

The discussion emphasized the ways in which we are all responsible for our own role in the state of affairs and that true healing begins within each of us, first individually and then collectively.

Thank you to Pie Ranch for hosting their fourth BOB Talk and for inviting Joy Moore, Kelly D. Carlisle and Paul Kivel for an inspiring conversation urging all of us to be active participants in a multiracial movement for justice, social change and healthy communities.

*Photo (from left to right): Paul Kival, Nancy Vail, Kelly D. Carlisle and Joy Moore. 

Farms’ Experience with the Agricultural Justice Project
By Elizabeth Henderson

“As my workers and I learned together about AJP’s social justice standards, I became even surer that I had made the right decision for my farm and the people who work alongside me and my family here,” said Farmer Jordan Brown.

“We’re taking a big step together, being the first farm in the southeast U.S. to participate in this program,” said Brown. “I’ve learned a lot from the process and am excited to see the program grow.” Farmer Jordan Brown owns and operates The Family Garden in Gainesville, FL. Jordan is focused on efficiently growing affordable veggies for the Gainesville community. As he puts it, I want “to pump out the produce and keep it affordable for working people.” (4.27.16 interview)
  In the Northeast, the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) has been providing technical assistance for farmers and food businesses, along with workshops on creating a fair work place, and certification for the Food Justice label for the past five years. The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) is a founding partner of AJP, a collaborative, non-profit initiative to create fairness and equity in our food system through social justice standards for organic and sustainable agriculture. NOFA’s partners in AJP are Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI - USA), Comité de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrícolas/Farmworker Support Committee (CATA), and Florida Organic Growers/Quality Certification Services (FOG/QCS). The AJP mission statement reads: “The Agricultural Justice Project works to transform the existing agricultural system into one based on empowerment, justice and fairness for all who labor from farm to retail.  Central to the AJP mission are the principles that all humans deserve respect, the freedom to live with dignity and nurture community, and share responsibility for preserving the earth’s resources for future generations.…

By focusing on the need for fair-trading in farm products and fair treatment of food workers, AJP contributes to shifting the dominant system towards greater equity and justice.”

A passionate commitment to social justice is one of the core values that inspired Ben Shute of Hearty Roots Farm in Hudson, NY, to become a farmer ten years ago. As Hearty Roots has grown, Ben found himself an employer so he turned to AJP for technical assistance in creating employee policies for the farm. At the advice of AJP, Ben created a written set of labor policies for the farm, set up a file on each worker and instituted regular check-ins that are now monthly. At these check-ins, he or his farm manager review the goals that the employee has set for learning and for improving performance and ask what they need to meet their goals. This process gives the managers the chance to provide regular feedback to the workers and for the workers to give the managers feedback on their management style.  The check-in also allows some time to talk about the bigger picture of what is happening with the farm.

AJP standards also require that every farm has a conflict resolution process that every worker understands and knows how to use. Ben reports that one result of these regular conversations is that they have not had to use their conflict resolution process. They are able to address emerging problems before things get out of hand.  Food Justice Certification is on Ben’s to-do list. This year, he certified the farm organic, and thinks that FJC may provide a way for the farm to differentiate its high bar labor practices in the marketplace from aggregators with CSA-like services.

“We hope to train a new generation of farmers who gain experience by working with us; and we pay our workers a fair wage and maintain worker-friendly employment policies," said Farmer Ben Shute.

The Piggery in Ithaca, NY, has been Food Justice Certified for two years. Heather Sandford, one of the owners, explained why they decided to invest time and energy in FJC: “There is so much media attention to land and water, to organic and how seeds are grown, but not enough about the people who do the work.” When asked why she puts such a strong emphasis on workers, she answered, “Because I am one. Technically, I own the business, but I do not think of myself as a boss. I work with the employees as a team.  It is important that the public understands that things will not get done without us. Food Justice Certification is helpful in opening up conversations with our customers about job security and wages. The FJC logo on the doors of the stop helps reinforce why customers shop with us.” 

The biggest plus of FJC, according to Heather is that it “makes our workers feel honored. They realize that we are trying to make an effort to give them a good work environment.”

Alyssa Bauer, who works at Old Friends Farm, a 28- acre certified organic farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, heard about AJP two years ago from farmer friends who initiated the Agrarian Action Network, a group of young farmers and farm workers who want to improve working conditions on area farms. 

Alyssa had never heard of domestic fair trade and was excited to learn that there was a national movement to improve farm prices, and labor policies and practices. 

Farmer Alyssa read the Food Justice Certified Standards and realized that Old Friends Farm was already compliant with most of them.

The standards include:

  • Fair pricing for farmers’ products
  • Workers' and farmers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining;
  • Fair wages and benefits for workers;
  • Fair and equitable contracts for farmers and buyers;
  • Clear conflict resolution policies for farmers or food business owners/managers and workers;
  • Workplace health and safety;
  • If on-farm housing provided for workers, it must be clean and safe;
  • Learning contracts for interns and apprentices;
  • No full-time child labor, but carefully supervised participation of children on farms.

Alyssa sat down with farm owner Missy Bahret and fellow worker Ona Magee and reviewed the FJC checklist. Whatever was missing, they added to the employee handbook for the farm, and Alyssa highlighted these with the other workers at their spring orientation. Since they did not have to change much, the process was easy. Old Friends is interested in certification and is hopeful it will be part of a broader campaign for labor rights in the area.
You will find the full standards, the policy manual, and a tool-kit with resources to help farms comply with the standards on the website. For an application click here.
Like Ben Shute, Jordan Brown has found the materials in the AJP “tool-kit” helpful as his farm has grown:

“The growth of our farm, from being a real small operation to where we are now, is closely tied to Food Justice Certification; it helped me get more organized because FJC standards required me to start running payroll, get Workers Comp, filing taxes, and start keeping better records.

It took some time to get everything in order and get organized because we do have to meet a lot of guidelines, at the same time, I think that organizational component has greatly benefitted the farm. There are lots of larger farms that are already very organized and keep records the way we do, but they wouldn’t meet the FJC standards because of their on-farm practices.”

Although fairness has been a basic principle in organic agriculture throughout the years (see the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements' Principles of Organic Agriculture), organic standards in the US have focused on production practices for farming and processing. 

The Food Justice label brings attention to the importance of fair pricing for farm products that fully covers the cost of production and the need for respect and living wages for all jobs in the organic supply chain.

Farmers who pay as much attention to the quality of life of their workers as they do to the quality of their soils are finding ways to pay living wages, though at some sacrifice to the farmers' own income. As Jordan Brown notes, “Pricing is the biggest obstacle to providing more benefits to workers. Right now, in my experience as a family-sized farm in the South, there is no retailer who is willing to pay more for produce for this certification. At least in the wholesale market, there’s no buyer who is willing to pay extra for produce that is grown without mistreating people.” Brown concludes,

“Success for us comes from the folks who come to our stand or sign-up for our CSA because they know we’re a FAIR farm and want to support good work.”

Brown sums up the hope of movement for domestic fair trade that as the public becomes more aware of farm worker realities, more people will be willing to pay the few extra pennies a pound and dollars a year that add up to a significant improvement in farmer and farm worker wages. 

Through Food Justice Certification, customers are able to recognize, and reward the farms and food businesses like GreenStar Market in Ithaca, New York, which qualified for FJC three years ago, that pay decent prices and negotiate fair contracts with the farms that supply them.. “ 

The AJP process has earned positive evaluations from the Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA), Consumer Reports and Fair World Project. If you think your farm is ready or if you want more information to get you started, contact AJP.
Caption for photo of Old Friends Farm:
Old Friends Farm is owned and operated by Missy Bahret and Casey Steinberg, and is located in Amherst, Massachusetts. Cut flowers are one of their cash crops. 

Copyright © 2016 Agricultural Justice Project, All rights reserved.

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