Standards of fairness
A good place to start is learning what’s in the Food Justice Certification standards, since the rest of this toolkit will help you implement the practices and policies they describe.
- Summaries of FJC standards and benefits for workers and for farm and ranch businesses
- Full FJC standards: Social Stewardship Standards for Farms, Ranches, and other Food and Agriculture Businesses (2019)
- Self-assessment checklist for farms
- More info on Food Justice Certification
Farm Employee Handbook
Our model farm employee handbook is our most popular resource, helping you communicate your policies, commitments, and expectations to your employees. By adopting and customizing our handbook, you’ll be off to a running start with lots of fair policies. FJC standards require employers to train their workers on their rights and privileges under the standards. While you don’t need to adopt this exact handbook to meet FJC standards, this template provides a base that you can adapt to meet your needs.
Health & Safety Plan
FJC standards require employers to have a plan to address safety hazards in the workplace and train employees in that plan. To help you write your safety plan, we provide a guide to writing the plan and a template to use as a base.
Healthy, Respectful Relationships
Beyond setting fair policies, fairness in the workplace also requires establishing relationships of respect and reciprocity. This section gathers a few general resources to help you re-imagine relationships on and around the farm.
- AJP’s Farm Health & Safety Plan template includes examples & resources for community agreements, a way to set expectations about how people will treat each other.
- Soul Fire Farm shares two models for healthy, respectful communication on the farm: Real Talk for feedback and evaluations and Courageous Conversations for resolving conflicts and grievances.
- In the introduction to her book Cooperative Farming, Faith Gilbert describes what it means to farm cooperatively.
- Rock Steady Farm offers a video presentation on how to Support an Inclusive Workplace Culture.
- In her article The Next Build in the Small Farm Sector: Resilient Relational Systems, Polly Shyka suggests farmers need to think about interpersonal relationships as another important dimension of farming sustainably.
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Hiring & On-boarding
There’s a lot to think about when hiring employees, including complying with laws and regulations that address required forms, reporting, wages and withholdings, hours and overtime, working and housing conditions, and so on. This section introduces the basic federal laws and regulations that employers need to comply with, describes where these laws fall short of providing decent working conditions, then offers guidance on providing fair working conditions by meeting the Food Justice Certification standards.
Covers required paperwork; hiring policies; wages & living wages; who qualifies as hired labor; working conditions; benefits; recommended resources on legal compliance; and a few additional resources and templates.
Note that this document is an introduction only, and you’re responsible for complying with local, state, and federal laws. Consult a local farm or labor organization for guidance, or check out state-specific guidance at Farm Commons.
Worker rights trainings
Food Justice Certified farms are also required to train their employees on their legal rights and on their rights and privileges under the AJP standards. We recommend you connect with a worker organization near your farm or business in order to arrange worker rights trainings (these organizations are important partners for your business, after all), but we also share here some Know Your Rights resources from workers centers in different places. Remember that state and local laws vary, which is just one more reason why connecting with a local workers center is important.
- Pamphlet/Workplace Posting: Worker Rights under AJP
- Workers’ Rights Handbook (Tompkins County Workers Center, NY)
- Workers Rights Manual, 3rd ed., English and Spanish (ARISE Chicago)
If your farm uses any EPA-listed materials (which includes many OMRI-listed items), you’re also required to give every worker an annual training in the EPA Worker Protection Standard before their first potential exposure. Note that worker organizations may offer these trainings, as well.
Of course, you need to have trainings covering a wide array of safety topics. See the Safety & Wellness section below for detailed resources on safety trainings.
Federal law (FSMA) requires at least one supervisor per farm to be trained in food safety, who then oversees on-farm food safety training and compliance. Trainings are available through the Produce Safety Alliance or the national GAPS program.
Extension services offer employee handbook templates, but most are hardly suited to fostering a fair and welcoming workplace, instead repeatedly emphasizing that employees can be fired for any reason at any time. Without violating “at-will” law, you as an employer can commit to only firing employees for just cause. See the introduction to our model handbook for more information on “at will” employment, its roots in the employer backlash against emancipation and the 13th amendment, and the need for “just cause” employment policies.
The model handbook is one of our most popular resources. It collects a variety of labor policies that will help you establish fair working conditions on your farm and comply with FJC standards. See also our 20-minute video guide below, which walks you through the policies and practices that the handbook contains so you know what you’re offering your employees.
All resources discussed in the video are included in this toolkit, but you can also view them all in one place at https://linktr.ee/ajphandbook.
Adapting your own handbook
This checklist can help you identify where your existing policies differ from Food Justice Certification standards. A good place to look for quickly identifying fair policies you can adopt on the farm.
Pay Notice and Work Acknowledgements
You are required by federal law to provide written notification to your employees of certain terms of their employment. Some states have additional requirements (see required New York state form below, for example).
- Sample Pay Notice and Work Acknowledgement (from AJP handbook)
- Pay Notice and Acknowledgement for Farm Workers (NYS Dept of Labor; English; other languages here)
- Aviso y aceptación de pago para trabajadores agrícolas (NYS Dept of Labor; Spanish)
Safety + Wellness
A holistic vision of safety in the workplace means not only protection from physical hazards, but also moderated workloads and opportunities for rest, respectful treatment, good faith resolution of conflicts, and knowledge of one’s rights and protections. This section covers both 1) safety plans and policies and 2) managing relationships (reviews and evaluations, harassment policies, conflict and grievance resolution, and discipline).
Includes: Making a farm safety plan; our template for a Health & Safety Plan; Training checklist; Training resources & links on Health and Safety; Example safety plans/policies.
Includes: Community Agreements; Reviews and check-ins; Sexual harassment; Conflict Resolution and Grievance Process; Disciplinary processes.
Interns, Apprentices, & Child Labor
Profitability & Buyer-Seller Relationships
Farming will never be sustainable if farmers can’t get a fair price for their produce. This section covers a farmer’s rights vis a vis buyers and provides resources for establishing fair prices and fair marketing agreements.
AJP offers help to Food Justice Certified farms to communicate their FJC status and what it means to their customers and buyers. This support can include press releases, sample language for newsletters, talking points, stickers, signage, and graphics for the FJC logo.
- FJC Marketing Materials (Currently under revision)
Appendix: Organic farming, fair trade, and fair labor
Here we provide background readings that frame how the FJC standards came to be.
Organic agriculture & social justice
Even from its first draft, the USDA National Organic Program standards abandoned the social justice commitments of the organic farming movement. For contrast, we provide here the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements’ (IFOAM) principles, which provide a fuller picture of the broad social commitments of organic agriculture as a movement and not merely as a market sector. These principles are Health, Ecology, Fairness, and Care.
See also the priorities outlined by the farmworker working group as part of the original development of the AJP’s standards:
Challenges of fair trade
The fair trade movement has had notable successes, but many challenges remain in order for fair trade to deliver on its promises for dignified livelihoods for farmers and workers. Here we provide important analysis from the Fair World Project:
International standards & codes
We also include important global perspectives and standards around labor which have been key in shaping FJC standards.