- Fruits: berries (other)
- Crop Production: continuous cropping, fertigation
- Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, cooperatives, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, market study
- Pest Management: chemical control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management
- Soil Management: organic matter
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, analysis of personal/family life, community services, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks, sustainability measures, quality of life
The survey conducted in two parts with over 200 respondents in the spring of 2002 and the spring of 2003 confirms that three out of four American fresh fruit consumers care about the conditions that farm workers face and would be willing to pay more for “living wage” produce. Approximately two out of three consumers would also support a Federal tax credit for certified growers that would enable them to better pay living wages to their workers
The Harvest Farm in Immokalee, Florida, an entity of Harvest for Humanity, is committed to diversified niche crop farming. One of the niche crops is delicious blueberries that are purchased by consumers in the spring in Southwest Florida and elsewhere. The blueberries are harvested in Immokalee, Florida two months before they are available throughout the rest of the nation. The Harvest Farm is committed to paying each employee a living wage to empower men and women to adequately provide for their families. Because of the living wage, consumers are asked to pay slightly more for the products that the farm produces. The difference goes directly to the farm worker in the form of a living wage of at least $8.50 per hour.
The purpose of this study was to test the viability of a “differential label” that singles out Harvest Blueberries from the rest as 1.) USA Grown, and 2.) Picked by workers paid a “Living Wage.” The project involved development and administration of intercept surveys to shoppers during May 2002 and May 2003 in Southwest Florida. The survey instrument used is included in the Appendix of this report.
Not that a “living wage” may be defined as the level of income sufficient to allow workers to support their families without dependence upon outside (public) assistance. A more narrow definition suggests that it is the income level necessary to pull a family of four above the poverty threshold, adjusted for local economic variable, with a range of $8.00 to $13.00 per hour. Ordinances at municipal levels already exist in over 100 cities and counties nationwide. Some ordinances have included health benefits, paid vacation days, public disclosure and other forms of worker protection.
The adoption of a living wage for farm workers would have far reaching effects and positive impacts for the workers, the agricultural industry, the farming communities, and the nation. Some of the objectives that could be accomplished would include the following:
– Provide a means for growers to sustain year round, loyal employees and reduce the dependency on transient labor
– Help reduce the influx of illegal and undocumented workers
– Improve the educational program for all farm worker children by allowing them to remain in school for the full year
– Begin to provide the means for new commercial development and acutely needed services in urban/rural farming communities such as Immokalee, Florida
– Provide bottom line benefits to participating advocates by embracing a cause related approach similar to, for example, “organic”, “green”, etc.
– Have minimal impact on the retail cost of farm products
This project has been conducted to determine specific performance targets for the following:
– Whether the grower and/or the retailers, or the government should have the responsibility
of preventing substandard farm worker related conditions
– Whether consumer respondents would shop more at retailers promoting “fair food” and “living wage” produce
– Whether respondents would be willing to pay 5% more for certified “fair foods” or “living wage” produce
– Whether consumers would support a Federal tax credit benefit paid to certified growers who pay their farm workers more or at least equal to a determined living wage level
This project could set the stage, depending on the results of the surveys, for implementation of a “Living Wage” Campaign or a “Fair Food America” Campaign among elements of the Agricultural Industry. The campaigns could include certification of growers; a local, regional, and/or national ad campaign; and, enlistment of retailer chains at the national level to provide a “Living Wage/Fair Food America Produce” section in their stores.