Farm worker project on social justice in organic agriculture

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, focus group, networking
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, new business opportunities, social capital, sustainability measures, community development

    Proposal abstract:

    As organic agriculture has become more successful and mainstream, it is characterized more and more by large-scale farms that often perpetuate the injustices present in conventional agriculture - such as decreasing income for small-scale farmers, and oppressive and exploitative working conditions for farmworkers. In recent years there has been a proliferation of attempts to address this gap in the current organic movement, through label and marketing initiatives addressing social and economic needs. As an organization comprised of and led by farmworkers, CATA brings the workers’ perspective to the table. It is critical that workers be directly involved in this process, and that they not merely have others speaking for them, or making decisions on their behalf. Beginning in 1997 CATA began advocating that workers’ rights be addressed in organic agriculture. From this early starting point, CATA partnered with other organizations to develop standards that would effectively link the economic and social well-being of farmers, workers, and the broader agricultural community. The project is now ready to enter the next stage: the piloting of the standards on an organic farm. This year, with the advent of the pilot process and the more detailed and nuanced work it would require, it was decided to form a permanent working group of our most interested members. This proposal is seeking support for this working group for the time period of May 2006 through May 2007.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • From the beginning, and consistent with its organizational structure and mission, CATA has actively involved its farmworker membership in this project: from the drafting of standards, to the development of the organization’s positions on key issues, to participation in meetings and the broader processes surrounding the meetings. The primary goal of this proposal is to build the capacity of CATA’s leadership and membership, who will then take an active role in development, oversight, and advocacy for this project. In order to achieve this goal, CATA will convene farmworker focus groups in order to assess the current level of capacity and skills amongst its membership in this subject. Through these focus groups staff will identify individuals who have an interest in participating in the working group. The entire working group, comprised of interested board members and other members of CATA, as well as staff support, will meet every two months, and more often as needed. The group will also coordinate and communicate between meetings to advance its work. Farmworkers / group members will directly participate in conferences or outside meetings whenever possible. This working group will advise and guide the work of the organization throughout the project, and serve as a conduit between staff and the broader membership of the organization. Every effort will be made to achieve gender parity and a broad geographical representation of CATA’s members in the group. Throughout the project the working group will seek comments and input from other stakeholders, such as other farmworker organizations, trade unions, current certification programs, consumers’ organizations, environmental organizations, and small-scale family farmers. This can be done through networks and conferences that CATA already participates in, such as the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and Urban Rural Mission. The role of CATA staff will be to serve as a conduit between the working group and the broader project, facilitating communication between the working group and CATA’s project partners through translation of documents and in-person during meetings and representing the working group on conference calls and in meetings in the event that workers are not able to attend. The overall indicators of success of this project will be: Active participation of the farmworker community in the development, piloting, and promotion of social justice-related standards for use in organic and sustainable agriculture. Is CATA enabling workers to directly participate as full partners in this project? Does the work of the working group accurately and fully reflect the farmworker community? Is the project enabling workers to communicate directly with sectors of society they normally are unable to interact with on a deep level, such as family farmers, certifying agencies, consumers’ associations, etc.? A successful pilot project. Has the pilot been characterized by full participation by all stakeholders? Has there been adequate and careful documentation of all lessons learned, i.e. what worked, what did not work, and why? Dissemination of results: Has CATA, together with its project partners, successfully organized the results of the pilot process and disseminated those results to the farmworker community and the broader sustainable agriculture community? In summation, a successful project will ensure that not only will labeling programs be promoted as a means for achieving justice for workers, but that it will be done in a way that truly reflects workers’ needs and priorities.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.