Identifying and Incorporating Fair Labor and Fair Pricing on Sustainable Farms in the North Central Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $249,547.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Sasha Sigetic
Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: demonstration, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, labor/employment
  • Sustainable Communities: quality of life, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    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.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    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.

    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.