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Posts Tagged ‘food justice’

Farmer Friday: Food Justice and The Family Garden

Do you believe in dignity, respect and human rights? This Farmer Friday, we will chat about food justice in the farm system. 

Each Friday in November and December, we are excited to bring you stories of what Florida Organic Growers (FOG) has accomplished in the organic and farming industry and how its impacted farmers, consumers and the community while spotlighting farmers in Florida who have benefitted from our work.

We encourage you to join us as a member to allow us to continue this invaluable work.

Food Justice: Fair treatment for all who labor in the food and farm system

Buying organic is important not just for your personal health and the health of the land, but also for the health of those who work in the fields growing that food.  However, there are other challenges in our food system when you start looking through a social justice lens.

Did you know farmworkers are exempt from some of the labor laws that protect almost all other workers in the United States (e.g., such as right to overtime pay and right to organize)?

Farm work is consistently one of the top three most dangerous jobs in the United States and also one of the lowest paid jobs, with an average annual income of between $12,500 and $15,000 for an individual and $17,500 and $20,000 for a family.*

These statistics are shocking yet very real.

photo3In 1999, recognizing that the U.S. National Organic Program’s standards did not address the people involved in organic agriculture, FOG Executive Director Marty Mesh collaborated with other nonprofits working to create equity and fairness in our food system to begin a stakeholder process to develop standards for the fair and just treatment of the people involved in organic and sustainable agriculture. The group called the effort the Agricultural Justice Project(AJP).

AJP seeks to set the bar high for social justice in the food system and transform the dominant food system that has failed its farmers and workers into one where human rights and dignity are valued and rewarded, right alongside protection of natural resources.

AJP created a domestic fair trade food label, called Food Justice Certified, which is backed and governed by food system stakeholders. Food Justice Certification is unique in the high level of integrity set by the comprehensive standards, the non-proprietary approach, and the inclusion of farm worker organizations in the inspections.

The Family Garden, a 25-acre Certified Organic farm located in Bell, was the first farm in the south to apply for the Food Justice Certified label. BrownFamily_cropped

“I want to grow food as respectfully and honorably as I can,” said Jordan Brown, owner of The Family Garden. “I have experienced positive feedback from many of our customers and others in the community in regards to our Food Justice Certified label. The positive feedback has helped us establish more loyal customers.”

“I am glad there are organizations working together to create a certification, to have a third party come in and verify what the farms are saying and create a level of accountability.”

To further advocate for farmworker rights, FOG, along with AJP and Little Bean Productions, created Hungry for Justice: Spotlight on the South, a social justice film that tells the story of The Family Garden and their commitment to focus on social justice issues for their workers by seeking Food Justice Certified label.

FOG’s passion is to advocate for farmer and farmworker rights, dignity and respect for the environment. 

                                                            Please join us as we continue our fight for all who labor in the food and farm system and become a FOG member today!

*NAWS 2007-2009 data published by National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc. 

Agricultural Justice Project

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FOG’s Social Justice Program

How can sustainable agriculture project our natural resources while ignoring our human resources?  It cannot. FOG has always been dedicated to promoting agricultural and food systems that protect our planet, the people  and animals who inhabit it, and our communities.  One of the main ways FOG has activated this mission is by participating as one of the founders and management committee members of the Agricultural Justice Project.

Agriculture cannot be sustainable when farmers  are subjected to injustice.  Farmers today face insurmountable debt, many needing to work off the farm in addition to their full time, physically demanding on-the-farm work. Some farmers are subjected to predatory contracts that give all the power to the agribusiness firms to which they sell their products, while forcing the farmer to shoulder the risk.  Agriculture under these circumstances is not sustainable.

Similarly, agriculture cannot be sustainable when farmworkers are subjected to injustice. Today in the United States grievous injustices still exist in dark corners of agriculture, where farmworkers don’t receive the same legal protections as other workers in the U.S. Some live in sub-standard housing, while some have their wages regularly held or stolen from them. Some farmworkers have had their passports confiscated from them, making it impossible for them to return home or find work on any other farm than the one that holds them.  Many are exposed to toxic substances that make them physically ill and create developmental problems in their unborn children. Some farmworker families have to send their children to work in the fields to make ends meet.  Agriculture under these circumstances is not sustainable either.

Florida Organic Growers, partnering with the Agricultural Justice Project, is working hard to bring justice and true sustainability to agriculture in the U.S.

Agricultural Justice Project’s Food Justice Certification

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) is a co-founder of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP), which seeks to transform the dominant food system that has failed its farmers and workers into one where human rights and dignity are valued and rewarded, right along side protection of our natural resources.  To this end, AJP created a domestic fair trade food label backed and governed by food system stakeholders. The Food Justice certification is unique in the high level of integrity set by the comprehensive standards, the non-proprietary approach, and the inclusion of farm worker organizations in the inspections.  The third-party Food Justice Certified label means the highest standards of equity and fairness have been met, respecting all those who labor together to bring food to the table.

AJP’s food justice certification covers fair conditions and relationships for:
• Farmers and Buyers,
• Farmworkers and Food Business Workers,
• Farm Interns, and
• Children on Farms, in addition to requiring
• Protection of the environment (organic and sustainable farming practices)

For information and questions about the standards, trainings and technical assistance visit the AJP website or email agjusticeproject@gmail.com.

To sign up for participation in the launch of the program in the South email Leah Cohen.

Project partners are Florida Organic Growers, Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas/Farmworker Support Committee, and the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

Why Care about Fair?

Farmers:

To understand more about the challenged faced by family scale and organic and sustainable farmers in this country read up on predatory contracts, subsidies for large conventional agribusiness.  The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) works on protecting farmers from unfair contracts.

In the face of record low commodity prices and ever increasing market concentration, many U.S. farmers are turning to contracting for economic security. This program works to ensure these contract arrangements between individual farmers and processors are fair and equitable. Check out the latest news from their fight.

Farmworkers:

To understand more about the harsh conditions of farmworkers in this country, the efforts that some farmers are making to improve working conditions and the quality of life for farmworkers, and the advocates (including the Agricultural Justice Project) that are fighting for social justice in our food system check out this short three part video.  Also check out this farmworker factsheet.

The California Institute for Rural Studies is the only non-profit organization in California with a mission to conduct public interest research that strengthens social justice and increases the sustainability of California’s rural communities. They often publish research on the conditions of farmworker in California which is one the biggest agricultural states in the US. Read more >>

Truth in Labeling:

Not all fair market claims are the same.  When there is money to be made in ethical products, there will always be many who seek to make that money and capture the market share.  Want to know more about how Food Justice Certification matches up to other fair trade certification programs?  The Fair World Project did an interview with each program to get answers to five key questions.   Learn more >>

In addition, the Domestic Fair Trade Association is in the process of developing a set of criteria by which to publish assessments of different fair trade market claims so the public can know what the differences really are. DFTA plans to have their final criteria published in 2012.  Check back periodically for updates.