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Fairer Eggplant

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Farmer Jordan Brown of The Family Garden Breaks New Ground on Social Justice for Farmworkers

As part of preparing for the Food Justice Certification, farmworkers at The Family Garden farm receive training from the Farmworker Association of Florida on their rights under the law and under the Food Justice Certification.

On an overcast day in October on a farm in north central Florida, a farmer gathered his workers to teach them about the important role they play in the success of the farm; and their right to safe working conditions, just treatment, and fair compensation.

The Family Garden, a certified organic farm owned by Jordan Brown, is working toward becoming the first Food Justice Certified farm in the southeastern United States.

The Food Justice Certified label was developed by the Agricultural Justice Project. AJP began as a cooperative effort in 1999. Leah Cohen represents one of the founding groups, Florida Organic Growers. “Food Justice Certification allows growers to place a label on their specialty crops and products as a signal to conscious consumers,” said Cohen. “Many consumers have questions about the treatment of the farmworkers and others in the food system that helped bring the harvest to them. Our Food Justice Certification allows consumers to rest assured that what they are buying is certified to standards that include fair, just, and safe treatment of all those that labor in agriculture.”

When we buy food in the store it is too easy to not think about the conditions forced upon those who worked the land and harvested the food. Food Justice Certification ensures that farmworkers are treated fairly and know what their rights are legally and what their employer has committed to do above and beyond the law.

The Agricultural Justice Project’s standards were originally developed over four years of stakeholder input. “It was important to us to get input on the standards from across the food chain,” said Cohen. “It was critical to the project to ask those who live the daily experiences of injustices in our food system how to codify in concrete terms what a legitimate claim of social justice would be,” said Cohen. “The standards came from stakeholders and the project continues to be governed by food system stakeholders means it will stay true to those who bring us our food. Of course one of the first things we heard from those who work in the fields is that it is not just to be exposed to toxic synthetic chemicals on a daily basis, so organic and ecologically sustainable agriculture was the starting point from which we expanded.”

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

Farmworker is one of the most dangerous occupations and health and safety training is one essential piece to treating farmworkers fairly and having an highly participatory training style increases ownership by farmworkers of their role in safety on the farm.

The Food Justice Certification training was facilitated by Florida Organic Growers, and conducted by trained members of the Farmworker Association of Florida, like Jeannie Economos. “Farmworkers do some of the hardest and yet most important work in this country. Too often their work, and they themselves, are taken advantage of because of their ethnic and/or socio-economic status,” said Economos. “Now, through this work and this project, we have an opportunity to turn things around – for farmworkers and for conscientious farmers in the U.S. This is a gigantic step forward.”

Conducted in Spanish, the training taught Brown and his workers about cooperation, collaboration, openness and transparency in their dealings with each other. They also learned about their rights and responsibilities under U.S. laws and the more stringent AJP standards.

“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.”

To learn more about the Agricultural Justice Project’s Food Justice Certified Program, visit www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org.

Parts of this article were re-printed in the Gilchrist County Journal. Read the article here>>

If you would like to support The Family Garden in their social justice efforts by purchasing their produce, it can be found in the following locations:

  • Thursdays at University of Florida campus CSA pick up. Click here for more info about joining the CSA for next season.
  • Saturday morning 441 farmer’s market.
  • Wards Grocery and Citizen’s Co-op.
  • Various restaurants around town including Tempo Bistro,  Civilization,  and The Top.

It’s now or never for the 2012 Farm Bill!

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It’s now or never for the 2012 Farm Bill – speak out today!

Sign the petition to let Congress know it’s a time for a Farm Bill NOW!

As of this month, our nation’s food and farm policy in the form of the 2008 Farm Bill has officially expired, with no workable replacement moving forward in Congress. This has left critical programs high and dry with no funding – and means Congress dodged the chance to make real reforms and an investment in an equitable, sustainable future for food and farms in America.

With no new farm bill or extension, the programs that address rural and urban job creation, training opportunities for beginning farmers, natural resource conservation, and access to healthy food are in big trouble.

Can Congress still finish a farm bill this year? YES!

Sign the petition to let Congress know it’s a time for a Farm Bill NOW!

There is a short window of time for Congress to finish the bill when they return to DC after Election Day. So when Congress returns to the Hill, we’ll need YOU and other farmers and advocates across the country to tell them loud and clear: we need an equitable, sustainable 2012 Farm Bill!

Florida Organic Growers has launched a major grassroots effort in collaboration with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and allies across the nation to make our voices heard. Sign onto the citizens’ petition today – and mark your calendar for a national day of action on November 15!

Sign your name and tell Congress we need a 2012 Farm Bill that:

  • Invests in the future of healthy farms, food, and people
  • Protects our precious air, soil, and water
  • Reforms farm subsidies and levels the playing field.

Sign the petition to let Congress know it’s a time for a Farm Bill NOW!

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Departmental Spotlight: Social Justice

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Observe labor day this week by encouraging your farmer to become Food Justice Certified through the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP)! “Food Justice Certified” is a homegrown domestic fair trade label which represents the gold standard for social justice in agricultural and food jobs. The commitment of Florida Organic Growers to social equity in the food system is a strong thread woven through all of our programs.  This commitment is best exemplified in our work with the Agricultural Justice Project.

AJP standards address:

  • Workers’ rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Fair wages and benefits for workers
  • Fair and equitable contracts for farmers and buyers
  • Fair pricing for farmers
  • Clear conflict resolution policies for farmers or food business owners/managers and workers
  • The rights of indigenous peoples
  • Workplace health and safety
  • Farmworker housing
  • Interns and apprentices
  • Children on farms

History of AJP

The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 required that the USDA develop consistent national standards for organic products. Many of those developing the new standards felt social equity to be too politically charged for the fledgling organic market to properly deal with. FOG Executive Director, Marty Mesh, had a front-row seat to the development of the NOP as one of the organic pioneers involved in its creation. It became obvious to him early on that these important social justice issues needed a champion of their own. Our progressively complex and opaque food system could foster exploitation of those who would work the fields and produce our foods. To that end, FOG teamed up with the Farmworker Support Committee (Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas,-CATA), organic farmer Elizabeth Henderson (now of  the Northeast Organic Farming Association), the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA), and Fundacion RENACE to create a domestic fair trade label. These groups formed the Agricultural Justice Project.

With the aim of ensuring a stakeholder driven social justice certification program, the Agricultural Justice Project spent years working nationally and internationally consulting with farmers, farmworkers, farm certifiers, food businesses, food business workers, and the various advocacy groups that represent each. The insight gained from these thousands of detailed conversations with food system stakeholders is what allowed AJP to be  a major voice in shaping the domestic fair trade movement.

AJP Today

The success of the Agricultural Justice Project has been driven by a primary desire to remain collaborative and inclusive while still maintaining a place for a comprehensive fair trade label that does not compromise on fundamental and important rights. It was this desire that lead the AJP partners to work with the Domestic Fair Trade Association  and others to help craft and subsequently sign the Boston Accord.  The Boston Accord strives to solve the problem of proliferation in the marketplace by increasing the potential for confusion in the public sphere about the similarities and differences among social justice claims. Any organization engaged in fair trade and social justice standard-setting or certification is welcome to sign the Boston Accord. Signatories to this document agree to work cooperatively and with a shared understanding and common vision for building a movement for socially just agriculture. Signatories will also agree to transparently share program information, and work towards establishing a code of conduct for legitimate fair trade organizations.

Recently, the Domestic Fair Trade Association has completed preliminary evaluations and a comparative analysis of four prominent fair trade and social justice programs, including AJP. Currently, AJP is using this evaluation to improve the Food Justice Certified program. FOG staff serving on the AJP management team are reviewing the evaluation findings in detail and implementing modifications as appropriate. Such modifications include a publicly accessible online conflict resolution process for use by program participants and certifiers. Further changes to make the program transparent include a public listing of the AJP governing parties and certified entities. In addition, AJP has committed to publishing names and locations of Food Justice Certified applicants so that concerned citizens can provide applicant feedback directly to the certifier.

In March, AJP completed its third formal training of certifiers and worker organizations in Santa Cruz, California. AJP has trained a total of five organic certifiers and seven worker organizations to date. Stay tuned to the FOG Blog for more info on an upcoming training session in the Northeastern U.S.

What can I do to promote social justice in the food system?

Ask your favorite farmer, grocer, or restaurateur if they are Food Justice Certified. Explain why social justice in the food system is important to you. Support businesses and products that participate in fair trade. If you are a food business owner, consider getting certified or taking the Food Justice Pledge.

Farmers Struggle to Make Ends Meet

With the farmer’s share of the food dollar going down over time, farmers struggle to make ends meet.  The US Economic Research Service has attributed this partly to our increased consumption of prepared and processed foods.  We as consumers are only willing to pay so much for food and as we demand more processing of our foods, it has an upstream impact on our farmers.  FOG conducted a survey of 400 southern certified organic farmers to find out what their constraints and priorities are to making a living farming sustainably.  We are analyzing the data right now; look for the results coming soon.

Some Florida Farmworkers Still Enslaved

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In this article published May 10th, 2012 in the Tampa Bay Times, LeRoy Smith tells his story of escape from a labor camp in Hastings, Florida in 2010 where he was forced to work on a farm. Slavery still happens in our time.

Modern day slavery of farmworkers is facilitated by a lack of transparency in our food system and the public being accustomed to cheap food. It is cheap for a reason. Support those farmers who do the right thing. Buy Food Justice Certified organic products. Ask your grocery stores and restaurants where the food comes from. Ask them to carry domestic fair trade products from quality programs like Food Justice Certified. Support the Domestic Fair Trade Association. Know your farmer and know your food. This has got to stop and you have the power to vote with your dollar.

For more information about social justice programs at Florida Organic Growers, please contact Social Justice Coordinator Leah Cohen. [Photo credit: JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

 

FOG Jog

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