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Organic Farming Research Foundation accepting abstracts for symposium

The Organic Farming Research Foundation is seeking submission of research abstracts for presentation at the 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), taking place on January 25-26, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky, immediately preceding the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference (SAWG).

The symposium will feature researchers from all disciplines related to organic farming and food systems, and other systems of sustainable agriculture that employ techniques compatible with organic standards.The intent of the symposium is to provide current information to farmers, ranchers, extensionists, educators, agricultural professionals and others interested in organic agriculture.

The deadline is October 1!

Learn more here!

Perspective from a Food Justice Certified Farm: Farmer Jordan Brown

Perspective from a Food Justice Certified Farm: Farmer Jordan Brown, Grows Organic and Food Justice Certified Mixed Vegetables and Fruit in North Central Florida

 

On Food Justice Certification:

A few years ago I heard about this certification and looked into it and saw what it stood for. I felt like it would be a good fit for our farm and would be a good way to let people know that our farm was trying to do things a little different than other farms in regard to the workers. Different than what I have seen on other farms. 

Food Justice Certification is important to me because it’s the only way, as far as I know, to certify that anything we’re doing labor-wise. We’re trying to pay people a living wage, have a safe and respectful work environment and trying to offer people some minimal benefits that would be associated with most jobs, but are not common in agriculture. We give people a few paid holidays off and we pay two hours a week of sick pay so it can be added up and they don’t have to worry about missing work. At the end of the season they can collect a check which lets them take off a couple of weeks. We offer all the produce they care to take from the farm. One of the long term goals is to offer overtime pay.

On Price to Farmers:

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.  Any kind of benefit always comes down to money in produce, and America is based off of the lowest possible cost of production at any given time and whoever is doing it cheapest is who sets the market price. The way we are farming now, the cost of living goes up every year so the cost to farm every year gets more expensive. A lot of piece work farms, at least here in Florida, remain stagnant. Back in the 80’s workers got paid $1.25/flat to pick strawberries and now they get between a $1-$1.30.

Having more farms participate in Food Justice Certification will help grow a greater awareness of the labor practices and unfair working conditions in the agriculture sector across America. Ultimately, more farms getting this certification will bring more money back to the farm and the farmer. Real change is needed in the farm labor sector and will happen in one of two ways: wholesalers taking smaller margins or higher prices at the retail counter that reflect the actual cost of food grown with truly sustainable practices that are good for the people and the planet.

People generally don’t care about any type of injustice until they are confronted with it and I think that if more consumers understood the injustices that happen to farm laborers in America and how difficult of a job it is for such a little amount of money, perhaps the Food Justice label would help open peoples’ eyes to those injustices. People are often willing to pay a little more when they understand that it will benefit someone else tremendously.  People all over America are paying $10-$14/lb for coffee because they think it helps get money back to that small farmer in Latin America. But people may not want to pay an extra dollar for lettuce or something here. The greatest obstacle is drumming up enough money to make payroll every week.

On the Growth of His Farm:

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 benefited 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.

On the Recent Move of His Farm:

Moving from Bell to Gainesville, retail sales will determine the health of our farm. As organic vegetable farms get bigger and bigger the only way for farms our size to stay in business is to move to retail sales, and having this certification sets us apart from all the other farms. In the local food scene, this is something that nobody really talks about and every farmer says they pay their employees well and treat workers with dignity, but that’s not always the case. I was exposed to agricultural injustice from farmers that I know around here. Abuse can be anywhere on any size farm. 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.

The Family Garden

Jordan Brown farmed for 8 years on 25-acre farmland in Bell, Florida. His farm, The Family Garden, relocated in 2015 to Gainesville, Florida on 20-acres in the southeast of town where they are growing mixed vegetables, while maintaining their fruit production on the property in Bell. The Family Garden strives to improve the land with good environmental stewardship and to treat employees’ right, all while growing quality products at a reasonable price. “We try to have a good work environment and pay a wage people can live on.” The Family Garden produce is available locally through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, local restaurants, and farmers markets, as well as being sold wholesale throughout Florida. “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.”

Fresh Access Bucks accepting applications for the FABulous Network

Attention Florida farmers and farmers markets!

Interested in expanding your customer base and sales?

Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) is currently seeking applications to add more farmers and markets to the FABulous network. FAB is designed to encourage Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) recipients to redeem their benefits at farmers markets and CSAs to purchase fresh, healthy foods directly from Florida farmers.

At participating outlets, FOG matches what a SNAP cardholder spends with FREE Fresh Access Bucks – up to $20, every market day. Customers can use them right away or later on to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables. Priority will be given to farmers and markets that already have EBT, that are located in and around low income areas and along transportation routes.

Please email info@freshaccessbucks.com for more information and visit www.FreshAccessBucks.com to download an application.

FOG offers SNAP Tech Support for Florida Farmers and Farmers Markets

FOG is now offering SNAP Tech Support, a program that offers guidance, advice and resources for Florida farmers and farmers markets interested in accepting SNAP benefits (formally known as food stamps).

If you’re interested in growing your customer base, increasing your sales, expanding access to healthy foods, and strengthening your local community and farms, then accepting SNAP as a payment option might be right for you! See the flier below for more details and how you can start accepting SNAP!

 

Introduction to Food Justice Certification

AJP FJC logo

Introduction to Food Justice Certification

Fairness – in payments to farmers for their products, in pay and working conditions for farmworkers – is included in the four principles of organic agriculture, though left out of the National Organic Program.  The Agricultural Justice Project’s Food Justice Certification is one way to ensure fairness is happening on and for organic farms.

The market is shifting towards a fair and healthy food system for the people that work the land, in addition to the land itself. Consumer demand for ethical purchasing is on the rise with 31% looking for fair trade food labeling (Consumer report 2014).

What does the Food Justice Certification program represent?

  • Rigorous environmental requirements for biodiversity, soil health, and animal welfare through application of Organic Certification standards
  • Third-party certification
  • Highest standards for fair and ethical labor and fair trade practices
  • IFOAM and ILO principles of social justice
  • Truth in labeling and transparent policies
  • Governance by food system stakeholders

Food Justice Certification is a domestic fair trade label created by the Agricultural Justice Project.  You can read the standards and policy manual on the AJP website. For evaluations of the Food Justice Certified label and program visit the Fair Facts program of the Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA) and the Greener Choices program of Consumer Reports.

Find extensive resources for farmers in the online tool-kit:

  1. A self-assessment check list so a farmer can evaluate readiness for FJC
  2. A self-assessment check list for fair pricing
  3. A downloadable template for labor policies so that a farmer can quickly create a set of employee guidelines that are FJC compliant
  4. Intern learning contract examples
  5. Resources on calculating production costs as basis for pricing that fully covers these costs
  6. A guide to fair contracts

For a guide to the certification process, please read our Steps to Certification.

Blueberry Plants for Sale!

On Sunday April 3the University of Florida group, Florida Alternative Breaks, spent their afternoon at the Green Market Nursery tending to Blueberry plants that are currently being sold as a fundraiser for Florida Organic Growers. The group tediously weeded each of the plants individually, added nutrient rich compost and aligned the pots into orderly rows.

The plants are looking great and are ready for purchase thanks to Florida Alternative Breaks generous time and helping hands!

Each plant is $15. When a purchase of 3 to 9 plants is made there is a 5% discount applied. A purchase of 10 or more plants is discounted 10%. Bulk deal pricing is also optional.

If you are interested in supporting Florida Organic Growers by purchasing some beautiful blueberry plants, please contact officeassistant@foginfo.org.

Conversations with an Agrarian Farmer featuring Jim Gerritsen

Celebrating Earth Day 2016! 

WHEN:    Saturday, April 23, 2016

WHERE:    Indigo Bistro Restaurant, 1690 Raymond Diehl Rd, Tallahassee  32308

Listening session and feast!

  • 3:30pm:    Organic farming, growing the best potatoes
  • 5:00pm:    Building Food Integrity in the Organic Community
  • EARTH DAY Feast:  A delightful supper of seasonal locally sourced produce from our local farmers, deliciously prepared by Tallahassee’s Indigo Bistro Organic Restaurant.

REGISTRATION:  $25.00/person by April 19, 2016  

REGISTER HERE!!

This Earth Day listening session & feast is a collaborative effort of the community including FAMU StateWide Small Farm Program, IFAS/Cooperative Extension-Leon County, Sustainable Tallahassee, Local Small Farmers, and Indigo Organic Restaurant.

About Jim Gerritsen:

Jim Gerritsen, along with his wife Megan, is an organic farmer who has owned and run Wood Prairie Family Farm in northern Maine for 40 years. Wood Prairie Family Farm  certified organic since the early 1980s produces Maine Certified Seed Potatoes, seed crops, vegetables and grain. 

In addition to farming, Jim has been active in the organic  community with NGOs for four decades.  He served as President of the educational and research NGO, Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) in Washington State. Additionally, he served for over twenty years on the Certification Committee of Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA).  Jim helped MOFGA pass the State of Maine’s GMO Labeling law in 2013, the second such law passed in the United States. Jim also serves on the MOFGA Ag Services Committee.

For additional information contact: Florida A&M University StateWide Small Farm Program/College of Agriculture and Food Sciences.  Jennifer.Taylor@famu.edu 850-412-5260.

REGISTER TODAY!

 

Whole Foods Market® Partners with Florida Organic Growers for Region-Wide Donate Your Dime Campaign

WHOLE FOODS MARKET® PARTNERS WITH FLORIDA ORGANIC GROWERS FOR REGION-WIDE DONATE YOUR DIME CAMPAIGN

Florida Organic Growers, First Regional Participant in Quarterly Initiative

Whole Foods Market, America’s healthiest grocery store, is partnering with Florida Organic Growers (FOG) for its first region-wide Donate Your Dime Campaign. The quarterly initiative launched its second term on Monday, January 18, 2016. Traditionally, each store partners with a different local organization for the program. In an effort to collectively raise awareness and funds for FOG, all 25 Florida stores have joined forces to maximize efforts. This also marks the first time in Whole Foods Market history that a region partners for the Donate Your Dime program.

The program consists of Whole Foods Market giving back ten cents per bag to customers who re-use their own shopping bags for their purchased groceries. Customers then have the choice to accept it as a discount on their bill or donate the cash back to the store’s chosen non-profit organization or to the Whole Planet Foundation.

Each fiscal quarter, Whole Foods Market selects a local non-profit partner who receives a donation of monies collected during that three month period. The Donate Your Dime Program has been an ongoing initiative for Whole Foods Market Florida region since 1997.

“When customers choose to reuse their bags, they are making a very positive impact for the environment,” said Karen Doyle, Whole Foods Market’s Regional Healthy Eating and Green Mission Specialist. “Most plastic bags end up in the landfill because they are not accepted in most residential recycling centers. Plastic bags are one of the most common items polluting our environment eventually ending up in our waterways and oceans.”

Florida Organic Growers is a Florida non-profit organization that promotes organic agriculture and healthy and just food systems by informing producers, consumers, media, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture.

“We are extremely grateful to Whole Foods Market for the Donate Your Dime partnership,” said Florida Organic Growers Executive Director Marty Mesh. “This campaign will allow us to share our passion for organic, healthy and just food and farm systems with the Whole Foods Market community. Funds raised from this campaign will benefit our statewide, national and international education initiatives, various projects and improving public policy. As pioneers in the transformation of Florida’s organic food and farming movement, we are excited for this opportunity.”

Non-profits interested in partnering with Whole Foods Market for the Donate Your Dime initiative can submit applications online at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/service/florida-community-giving.

FOG partners with the USDA to make organic certification more attainable for farmers

As 2015 comes to a close, we reflect on our amazing accomplishments this year through Moving Mondays, a campaign that spotlights how we are making efforts to improve the food landscape in Florida.

We encourage you to join with us as we continue this invaluable work.

Last month, we partnered with Little Bean Productions and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program to launch a video series called Organic Certification Made Simple: Bite by Bite as part of the USDA Sound and Sensible Initiative, a campaign that aims to make organic certification more accessible, affordable and attainable.

The multi-part series provides a step-by-step overview of organic production requirements and the process of organic certification—by farmers, for farmers.

Featuring both farm footage and animation, the videos aim to be easily digestible and succinct; each video covers a different topic so viewers can pick and choose to watch the videos that correspond directly with their interests or questions. Viewers can watch the whole series to get a holistic overview of the entire certification process.

Throughout the 26 videos, farmers discuss their firsthand experiences with obtaining organic certification and why they decided to pursue it.

We were one of 14 organizations awarded a project contract with a goal to advance the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) Sound and Sensible Initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process.

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community. When you support FOG, you support family farmers throughout Florida and beyond.

Won’t you join with us in 2016 as we change Florida’s food landscape?

FOG expands technical support to farmers and markets wishing to accept SNAP

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community. We want to thank our Friends of FOG members and donors for their support as they have been vital to our success.

We encourage you to join with us as we continue this invaluable work. 

In October, we were awarded a Farmers Market SNAP Support Grant (FMSSG) to increase the capacity of our Fresh Access Bucks farmers markets to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps.KYV Farm

Fresh Access Bucks is a statewide incentive program designed to encourage SNAP recipients to redeem their benefits at farmers markets to purchase fresh, healthy foods directly from Florida
farmers. At participating markets, FOG matches what a SNAP cardholder spends with FREE Fresh Access Bucks – up to $20, every market day. Customers can use them right away or later on to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables. For example, a SNAP shopper who spends $10 of their SNAP benefits at a participating market receives an additional $10 to purchase fresh, local produce.

The grant funding will increase the capacity of 20 Fresh Access Bucks partners managing the participation of SNAP at 29 farmers markets.

It does so by providing each partner with funding to hire part-time staff to manage SNAP activities for the markets. By providing the partners with funding for part-time staff over two years, we anticipate greater SNAP redemption rates at these 29 markets through increased outreach and visibility of the program.

This is huge for our efforts in Florida!

In addition to supporting the establishment, management and promotion of SNAP/Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) services at farmers markets, FMSS grant funds will also expand our technical support to farmers and farmers markets wishing to accept SNAP.

Won’t you join with us as we change Florida’s food landscape?