Improving the quality of life for Southern organic farmers and farm workers

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2009: $190,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Leah Cohen
Florida Organic Growers

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, social capital, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The purpose of the proposed project is to research and evaluate social and economic dynamics and address the quality of life of organic farmers, farm workers, and interns in the South. The three research questions are: 1. What are priorities for fair farm practices and social sustainability on farms in the South? 2. Does the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) model improve quality of life of farm workers, interns, farmers, and others in the food chain? 3. What is public knowledge, priority, and support of fair working conditions and quality of life on farms? Taking a systems approach, the project will conduct standardized surveys of farmers and the public in the South. This will be done through collaboration with regional farmer organizations, farm worker organizations, organic certifiers, southern organic farming conferences and workshops, and participating retailers. The project will use surveys, audit data, and an external evaluation to assess impact of the AJP model on quality of life. The AJP model aims to provide an economic incentive for just working conditions through establishment of standards, tools to facilitate adoption, a verification system, and a food label. Education and outreach will target farm workers, farmers, retailers, and the public. Local farm workers participating in the project will be trained on health and safety, labor rights, and rights under the AJP standards by a local farm worker organization that will test a “training of trainers” model to be developed by the Farm Workers Support Committee (CATA) and the Farm Worker Health and Safety Institute. The project will distribute a farmer toolkit for facilitating adoption and documentation of socially sustainable farm practices. Data from public surveys in participating retailer settings will be used to design and implement a public education model aimed at increasing knowledge of and support for socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable agriculture. Retailers will provide input on the types of tools needed in the retail sector to support a fair full food chain. This project will help to fill the gap in quantitative assessments of social considerations in organic agriculture. This project is dedicated to enhancing social sustainability in sustainable agriculture and considers it impossible to address working conditions and relationships, without consulting those who live these conditions. This project offers the opportunity to listen to previously unheard voices from traditionally marginalized communities and activate social sustainability in full food chains in specific locations in the South. Concrete assessment of the impact of the model will contribute to more respectful and beneficial relationships and ultimately a better quality of life in targeted food chains. Educating the public using key messages harmonized with their priorities for sustainability will improve the competitive advantage and economic return for organic and truly sustainable farmers in those markets. This will provide both select groups of consumers and farmers a viable way out of the increasingly global industrialized organic marketplace, where conditions are ripe to further disconnect those who grow food from those who consume it.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Identify best practices and support for socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable agriculture through research on perceptions, priorities, and practices on organic farms in the South.

    Objective 2: Assist farmers and others essential in our food system in benefiting from a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable farming and food system model by providing education and outreach tools and certification and by assessing the impact of the system and tools.

    Objective 3: Research public knowledge of and support for social, economic, and environmental sustainability in agriculture and the full food chain and explore commitment to pay for AJP certified products.

    Objective 4: Develop and implement a public outreach and education model to raise public awareness of quality of life issues in agriculture and the food system.

    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.