Progress report for LNC21-447
This project will address the interrelated issues of fair pricing for farm products and just working conditions for farmworkers. This provides an opportunity for sustainable farmers to align their commitment to social justice with their need for economic sustainability and their passion for and dedication to environmental stewardship.
Social equity for the people who farm – farm owners and farmworkers – is too frequently overlooked, but an essential component of a truly sustainable, regenerative, food and farm system. Our goal is to help farmers institute clear, fair labor policies and practices that improve employee quality of life and employee retention, which are partially dependent on farmers' ability to calculate production costs that include these improvements. If agricultural work were compensated and managed fairly, farmwork could be an economically viable and respected career. A stable, motivated workforce makes active contributions to the management of sustainable agricultural production.
We will recruit farmers to participate with an initial survey and easy-to- adapt templates for labor policies and safety plans. We will engage those who want more in a detailed self-assessment of their farm’s labor and pricing practices, and provide individualized reports with recommendations. We will offer a series of educational events on topics of concern: farm health and safety plans; training programs for interns; calculating the full costs of production; negotiating with buyers and using contracts; managing farm employees, including conflict resolution, evaluating work, and termination for just cause.
Fair farm labor is located at the nexus of sustainable agriculture, fair trade, and labor. We will build and facilitate a multi-stakeholder group representing these perspectives, fostering knowledge exchange among them, and building our collective capacity to address these issues. Participants in the learning community thus created will increase their skill in providing technical assistance to farmers and farmworkers, becoming familiar with the resources available to work with these populations, and be introduced to the processes of on-farm social auditing.
We will evaluate our effectiveness based on how many farmers participate, whether they gain knowledge and skills, their intention to make behavioral changes and, to the extent possible given the project’s timeframe, their success in making those changes and improving conditions on their farms, including worker satisfaction and retention.
Long-term, this effort addresses systematic inequity that can be applied beyond the food system, benefiting any current or future disadvantaged groups by providing a cooperative framework for human relations in trade and on the job.
Learning outcomes include improved skills for farmers at setting and negotiating prices and contracts, and knowledge of best fair labor practices. Action outcomes include self-assessment of labor practices, utilizing resources to improve pricing and labor practices, and instituting changes that increase compensation, improve health, safety, and working conditions, and provide a higher level of employee involvement in the quality of farm production and the agroecological system. The long-term outcome is to enhance farmers’ ability to attract and retain high quality farm labor and to ensure fair working conditions as an essential component of agricultural sustainability.
The project includes outreach and training for limited resource, as well as other family-scale organic and sustainable, farmers. Our farmer-farmworker advisory committee will invite participation from those who have been historically marginalized, such as low wage and/or migrant workers, farm managers who do not own land, and includes representation from organizations that work with farm laborers. Our goal is to better the conditions for farmworkers, benefitting both employers and employees on farms.
We will use earlier projects from the SARE database as a starting point, building on the experiences gained and stakeholder evaluative feedback, to bring a similar effort into the North Central region, where this work has not, to date, been represented. Revelations about worker neglect from the era of Covid-19 makes it especially timely to address fairness to farmworkers on farms that identify as sustainable.
- - Technical Advisor
Offer a series of educational events on topics of concern:
- farmworker health and safety plans;
- training programs for interns;
- calculating the full costs of production;
- managing farm employees, including conflict resolution, evaluating work, and termination for just cause.
- Build and facilitate a multi-stakeholder group representing these perspectives, fostering knowledge exchange among them, and building our collective capacity to address these issues. OEFFA and AJP are working together to host a Fair Farms group through Marbleseed's Ag Solidarity Network (ASN).
Participants in the learning community thus created will increase their skill in providing technical assistance to farmers and farmworkers, becoming familiar with the resources available to work with these populations, and be introduced to the processes of on-farm social auditing.
Educational & Outreach Activities
In January and March 2022, we hosted two introductory webinars with farm consultant Ellen Polishuk on the themes of cost of production and fair pricing. These two webinar sessions, available for viewing here, culminate in a full three-part course in December 2022 (now completed).
December Session 1 https://OEFFA.zoom.us/rec/share/yhSNwGtBUlWCA2jxRYqGHMLsBkXH15jL6PtemKWMvEnpT51I_CSnzGZjfSxEW4LU.cfsDIHoojKGwGnuy Passcode: @79&f0@$ Passcode: @79&f0@$
December Session 2
https://OEFFA.zoom.us/rec/share/UjLymY7yTiisjs5gdVeb9K7bTaRDIsAVo-3EAeRodbeCoTx0Xxpe5o3SObNGUFRY.A2gTseem17o8aErg Passcode: ^cb7?zrx
December Session 3
At the '23 OEFFA Conference, Fair Farms Program OEFFA/AJP presented three workshops:
- Planting Fairness- an all-day event introducing AJP Standards on Labor and working on adapting employment agreements and health/safety plan templates.
- Farm Health and Safety Plan- over an hour focused on developing farm health and safety plan from template.
- Networking and Building a Solidarity Economy-about 90 minutes of sharing from at least 39 farmers, educators, and activists about the work they are engaged in for this movement. Several positive connections resulted within the group and we were able to recruit another demo farm to build our Food Justice Certification capacity in the North Central Region of SARE.
We also published the two articles below in MOSES' spring edition of their Organic Broadcaster Newsletter, and OEFFA's spring newsletter.
Fair and sustainable farm labor MOSES 2022 (1)
We are working to publish updated articles in Marbleseed and Nature Conservancy publications.
- Calculating Costs of Production in order to pay a Living Wage to Farmers and Workers
Completion of OEFFA's Food Justice Certification Application Process as part of our demonstration audit process, including employment agreement, health and safety plan, conflict resolution protocol, and Fair Systems Plan (FSP).
" The model employee handbook you shared with us is great! I can use what I want and delete what I don't need. It makes it so much easier to be a fair employer and legal too!"
~Producer and Educator in Southwest Ohio