AJP Toolkit

Screenshots of documents from the AJP toolkit

Welcome to our online toolkit!

This toolkit collects guidance and resources to help you build a business and workplace that’s fair and accountable to workers, small-scale farmers, and communities. This toolkit began as a set of resources to help farms and ranches meet the AJP’s Food Justice Certification standards, but we are updating and expanding these resources to better help farmworkers, food chain workers, food business employers, nonprofit employers, farm educators, and all buyers of farm products, whether or not you’re seeking Food Justice Certification.

These resources were compiled by the AJP. Everything here is free to use and share including for use in your business. These resources must be shared freely and you must give credit to the original authors whose works you use. The AJP-authored portions of the toolkit are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Original authors of linked resources retain all rights as noted in their works.

Full credits & acknowledgments

Farmer/writer Elizabeth Henderson has headed up the writing and compilation of our Farmer Toolkit over the years, along with recent new energy from Jon Magee and major contributions and editing from Leah Cohen, Sally Lee, Chelsie Papiez, and Danielle Mastrogiovanni.

Other farmers, writers, organizers, and organizations have generously shared many of the resources compiled here, and all content remains the property of their respective authors and publishers. If you adapt or use resources shared here, please credit the authors where appropriate. We recommend checking Soul Fire Farm Institute’s usage guidelines for guidance on using other people’s work respectfully.

Funding Acknowledgments

The work of creating this toolkit has been generously supported by funding from Clif Bar, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, one anonymous family foundation in New York, North Central Region SARE, and the Northeast Extension Risk Management Education Center (NEERME). Our partners in these grants include the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Assocation (OEFFA), the Northeast Organic Farming Association-New York chapter (NOFA-NY), Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE), and El Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas/Farmworker Support Committee (CATA).

This material is based in part upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2018-70027-28588, How Do You Know Your Pricing is Right, and Your Investment is Protected? Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this work are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What’s in the toolkit?

Below you will find different kinds of resources:

  • guidance on workplace and business practices;
  • reference materials;
  • templates and forms;
  • model policies and practices;
  • and some links to other organizations who can help you or offer more specialized knowledge.

Legal vs. fair. Some of these resources discuss the legal requirements of doing business and hiring employees, but much of this toolkit aims at supporting practices that are fair rather than merely compliant with the law. We share these resources so you can meet the rigorous standards of fairness of Food Justice Certification, which workers and small-scale farmers wrote to be a benchmark of fairness and food justice.

You are responsible for following all local, state, and federal laws. This toolkit does not offer professional legal advice. Consult a farm or labor organization in your area for information on legal compliance. We recommend Farm Commons, who have built a collection of guidance on legal compliance for many different states.

How to use the toolkit

  • Employers and managers: Use the toolkit to implement fair workplace practices, build a committed team, develop your business and your management skills, negotiate fair trading relationships, and communicate your values and needs to your community.
  • Workers: Use the toolkit to negotiate better working conditions, grow opportunities for leadership and workplace democracy, and build connections with others around a vision of fair work.
  • Producers & Buyers: Negotiate fair prices and terms of sale, and develop reciprocal, committed relationships with business partners.

Most of this toolkit deals with relationships within a business. The section on Profitability & Buyer-Seller Relationships includes resources on relationships between businesses and relationships with customers.

 

Please do:

  • Make sure you comply with local, state, and federal laws. We aren’t lawyers, and laws vary in different places. You are responsible for your own farm’s compliance.
  • Use and adapt these resources to improve and deepen relationships among workers, farmers, food businesses, and customers.
  • Use and adapt these resources to make your farm or food workplace a fair, thriving place to work.
  • Use these resources as learning and discussion tools in your community.
  • Give credit to AJP or other authors of any toolkit resources you use.
  • Share this toolkit!
  • Contact the AJP for help with implementing fair policies, increasing your revenues through fair business relationships, or seeking Food Justice Certification.

Also please sign our guestbook!

We welcome your comments and suggestions. This toolkit is a living document, and we’d love to make it more useful for you.

Getting Started

If you’re new to the toolkit, here are some handy resources to get you going.

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.

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.

Do us a quick favor?

Help us improve this toolkit by signing our guestbook! We’ll send you occasional updates on toolkit resources but you can opt out at any time. We won’t share your information.

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.

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.

Other 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.

Employee Handbooks

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).

Sign our guestbook and help us improve the toolkit!

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

Covers intern and apprentice programs, including links to several examples of learning agreements for apprentice programs and other in-depth resources.

Covers child labor law and FJC standards on farm work by minors (youth under 18).

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.

Marketing

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.

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.