Food Justice Certification
What’s different about Food Justice Certification?
Rigorous standards of fairness
For a quick introduction to what our standards offer, see our summaries of FJC standards for farm workers and for farmers. For in-depth information on the provisions of FJC, including standards covering other food businesses, retailers, non-profit organizations, and more, see the latest edition of our standards.
Participation and accountability
Farm workers and small-scale farmers founded the AJP and wrote the FJC standards. Through our on-going stakeholder-driven governance processes, the Agricultural Justice Project strives to make our certification program directly accountable to the workers, farmers, and eaters who are typically marginalized in our food system.
Help implementing fair practices
The FJC standards provide the foundation for our technical assistance program, through which we offer direct support and guidance to farms and businesses seeking to adopt fair labor practices and achieve fair trade relationships with their customers.
Food Justice Certification standards
The AJP developed the original Food Justice Certified (FJC) standards over a four-year period of stakeholder input involving farmers, farmworkers, interns and apprentices, indigenous groups, and retail and consumer groups. These standards translate social justice principles into concrete practices for food production and processing. We revise our standards every five years through an 18-month process based on ISEAL’s best practices for standards revisions.
Quick introduction to the standards
A quick introduction to Food Justice Certification standards for farm workers.
A quick introduction to Food Justice Certification standards for farmers.
A quick introduction to Food Justice Certification and the FJC standards for food businesses.
A quick introduction to Food Justice Certification and the FJC standards for brand holders.
Read & download the standards
Full text, current edition of our FJC standards. Spanish translation coming soon.
Documento de Estándares para una Gestión Social Responsable en la Agricultura Orgánica y Sustenable (2012)
Full text, Spanish language translation of FJC standards, 2012 edition. See also Revisiones a las Normas de Certificación de Justicia Alimentaria 2019 Versión 4.
More info: Standards revisions & process
Thank you to all the farmworkers, farmers, food system workers, advocates and allies, ethically-minded food businesses, researchers, attorneys, and eaters for participating in the standards revisions. Thank you to the members of the Standard Committee, Advisory Council, and Board of Directors for working across sectors to come to define fair labor and trade practices from field to table. See the full list of participants here.
We formally convene a Standards Committee every 5 years. Committee members are invited to participate based on expertise or experience in a particular area of the food system the FJC standards cover. Members may occasionally be called upon in between 5-year revisions to address urgent standards revision issues. The Advisory Council and the Board are also active in the standards revision process.
Documentation of the most recent revisions process and comments:
- 2012 AJP Social Stewardship Standards – English
- 2012 Estándares de AJP para una Gestión Social Responsable – Español
- 2019 AJP Social Stewardship Standards – English
- Summary of changes from 2012 version to 2019v4 version
- Revisiones a las Normas de Certificación de Justicia Alimentaria 2019v4
1st Open Comment Period – October 9, 2015 – January 20, 2016
2nd Public Comment Period (English) – February 28 – May 30, 2017
- Master List of Revisions February 2017 (English)
- Official Response to Comments February 2017 (English)
2nd Public Comment Period (Spanish) – April 18, 2017 – July 17, 2017
- Revisiones a los estándares del PJA Lista Maestra de los cambios para el borrador de la Mesa Directiva del PJA 7 de octubre de 2015
- Revisiones de estándares de CJC Lista Maestra de cambios de Octubre de 2015 a Febrero de 2017
- Respuesta oficial a los comentarios Seguimiento a la propuesta de revisiones a los estándares del CJC en 2015
To maintain truth in labeling, Food Justice Certified uses three different labels to communicate to consumers how many links in the chain were certified in the production of a product.
Tier One: Fair Farm
Covers single ingredient products directly from the farm or processed products made with certified ingredients but not made by a certified processor.
Tier Two: Fair Farm & Fair Company
Covers products using ingredients from certified farms that are processed or manufactured by certified companies.
Tier Three: Fair Company
Covers vendors, retailers, and restaurants who want to promote their in-house fair labor practices in their marketing materials. If they sell certified products they can advertise a full-chain certification.
For multi-ingredient products, we require that a significant amount of the total ingredients are certified in order to feature our label on the product. If a product’s ingredients don’t reach this threshold, a manufacturer lists “Food Justice Certified” in the ingredients list without using the certification mark on the face of their label. This encourages further development of certified supply chains and prevents “fair-washing” or mislabeling.
More info: Truth in labeling
The Agricultural Justice Project is committed to transparency and integrity in our certification practices. Our stakeholders have long advocated for increased transparency and integrity in organic certification. We are committed to developing a system without loopholes, a label that consumers can trust. We build transparency into our program in several important ways.
Standards for Multi-Ingredient Labeling
Certification labels are only as strong as their label requirements. Processed foods, like granola bars or pasta sauce, are made up of different ingredients coming from different suppliers. When you see a certification label on the front of a processed product, you might expect that all of the ingredients met the standard. Whether or not that is true depends on the labeling requirements.
We believe the Food Justice Certified multi-ingredient labeling requirements are as rigorous as possible. We require that 95% of the dry weight of the product (meaning the weight without water content) is certified before full use of our label is granted. Anything short of 95% says “Made With” or is listed only in the ingredients panel.
AJP uses a three-tier labeling system to communicate which parts of the supply chain for a product are covered by our certification, removing any ambiguity.
Public Consultation Process
We believe that social justice certification should be a 360 degree review. AJP includes an additional step in our certification process that allows members of the public to communicate directly with the certifier if you have concerns regarding a particular farm or business. This process allows community members to speak out and let certifiers know if there are issues that deserve further investigation before a farm or business becomes certified. Visit our public consultation page to learn more.
AJP includes stakeholder representatives in every part of our programming, including in certification. We include a representative of a workers’ rights organization in the audit team that inspects any farms or businesses with hired labor, and we take special care when interviewing employees and former employees.
We also welcome your feedback. Our standards and policies are living documents. Help us make our system more transparent, representative, and fair by sending us your concerns, suggestions, and ideas.
These farms and businesses have recognized the importance of fair labor practices and proudly display the Food Justice Certified label on their products and store windows.
Lola's Organic Farm, Glenwood, GA
Farmers Jennifer Taylor and her husband Ron Gilmore grow organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, and cover crops all year on about four organic acres of a 32-acre organic certified farm land in rural Georgia. Jennifer’s grandmother farmed this very land before her. Lola’s Organic Farm is the only certified organic farm in the county and in surrounding counties.
The farm has a ripple effect that goes far beyond middle Georgia, as these black indigenous farmers promote the important role of resource-poor small farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers and the benefits of agroecology-organic farming systems agriculture through hands-on learning sessions at Lola’s Organic Farm. Jennifer also participates on several local, national, and international boards whose focus is organic agriculture.
Given at her organic farm, that she does not hire employees, her focus is on growing the farm, and sharing knowledge-training and learning experiences on agroecology-organic farming systems that add success and value to small farmers and their healthy foods environments, and communities. If you are interested in learning more about Lola’s Organic Farm, email email@example.com.
Pie Ranch, Pescadero, CA
Pie Ranch has been training young farmers and providing educational programs for high school students since 2003. A working farm and an educational and cultural center, Pie Ranch “cultivates a healthy and just food system from seed to table through food education, farmer training, and regional partnerships.” Executive and Program Directors Jered Lawson and Nancy Vail chose to apply for Food Justice Certification to underscore their commitment to social justice. As they put it, “Pie Ranch is a place for ‘pie in the sky’ idealistic thinking to guide social change… We believe enjoyable and thoughtful engagement with good food can bring individuals, families and institutions — from children to school boards — together to create a more healthful and just society.”
Roxbury Farm, Kinderhook, NY
Sisters Jody Bolluyt and Keri Latiolais own and manage Roxbury Farm CSA along with a talented team of farmers on 400 acres of protected land in Kinderhook, NY. Roxbury Farm CSA is a community supported farm: a partnership between the farmers and the customers working together to create a regenerative organic food system that works for everyone. The 900-plus members of the CSA provide a guaranteed market for the farm's products allowing the farm to pay better wages to people working on the farm, use regenerative farming practices, raise livestock humanely, and to share farming knowledge with other farmers.
Jody says, "Applying for Food Justice Certification with AJP was a concrete step our farm could take in order to work towards a just food system, a system that works to meet the needs of everyone involved."
Soul Fire Farm, Petersburg, NY
Soul Fire Farm is a small, highly diversified farm that provides weekly doorstep deliveries of in-season, farm fresh, certified naturally-grown food to hundreds of individuals in the Albany inner city living under food apartheid and targeted by state violence. As collaborators in a movement that honors the people whose labor has built the food system in this country, Soul Fire Farm pursued FJC in recognition of the striking significance of a certification that amplifies farmworkers’ voices while supporting their lives and livelihoods. In a food system founded on stolen land and labor that continues to perpetuate structural racism and injustice, Soul Fire Farm values FJC's insistence on fair pricing and fair labor practices that challenge food apartheid and the devaluing of the people who steward the land.
Soul Fire Farm goes beyond the organic standards and the FJC standards by working to dismantle the racist structures that misguide our food system. Through programs such as their Farmers Immersion for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, API and other people of color, sliding scale CSA farm share, and youth food justice leadership training, they are part of a network of farms working to foster land stewardship and leadership by Black and Brown people in the food system, reclaim Afro-Indigenous regenerative farming practices, and catalyze the transfer of resources and power from those with food system privilege to those impacted by food apartheid. In their own team Soul Fire Farm strives to mirror the healing justice they seek in the world by uplifting radical self-care, community accountability, compassionate communication, distributed leadership, fair compensation, and commitment to personal and professional development.
Food Justice Certified entities are accountable to their buyers, producers, employees, and to their communities as well. AJP conducts a public consultation process as one part of our efforts to ensure that accountability.
The list below shows current applicants for Food Justice Certification. Applicants remain in the public consultation process for at least 30 days. Members of the public are encouraged to contact the certifier with concerns or comments about the applicant.
Certifiers will consider your comments and determine if additional questions or steps are required for the applicant’s audit. Members of the public who provide comments may not hear back from certifiers regarding the details of how their comment was processed because this may involve confidential information. The AJP also welcomes public comments to ensure they were given due consideration.
Applicant: Foxtail Farm, Osceola, WI
Owned and operated by Emmalyn Kayser and Cody Fitzpatrick
Posted May 2, 2023
To submit public comments, contact: Adam Utley, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, (614) 725-3162, firstname.lastname@example.org
Apply to be Food Justice Certified
The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) is currently the only Food Justice Certification certifier. Visit OEFFA’s website for more information about the application process and to apply for certification.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does Food Justice Certification compare to other fair trade standards?
Consumer Reports, Fair World Project, the Domestic Fair Trade Association, National Farm Worker Ministry, and farm worker organizations have all given high marks to Food Justice Certification’s standards for fair labor & trade practices because of our rigorous standards, truth in labeling, and stakeholder participation and governance. For more information see the Fair World Project’s Reference Guide to Fair Trade and Labor Justice Programs or their more detailed report and evaluation, Justice in the Fields. FJC is also one of only a handful of fair labor labels included in both the Good Food Purchasing Program and the Real Food Standards.
What's the process of certification?
First a farm or business brings their labor and trade practices into compliance with the FJC standards. The AJP offers technical assistance to help with this process. AJP provides this service free to farmers, depending on funding availability.
Once a business believes their practices are in compliance, they fill out an application for certification with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association (OEFFA), who is currently the only certifier that offers FJC.
Once the application has been reviewed, OEFFA schedules an in-person audit, and the AJP posts an invitation for public comment regarding the applicant.
A team consisting of an organic certification inspector and an AJP-trained representative of a worker organization perform the FJC certification audit. The certifier meets with management to review workers’ files and contracts with buyers if such exist. The worker inspector meets with farm workers and interviews them individually in confidence to verify farm labor practices.
During a certification audit the selection of workers to interview is strictly dictated by the certifier and worker representative. The protocol certifiers must follow does not allow them to consider farmer input in selection of these workers. The certification auditor may also ask for contact information for workers who are not present the day of the audit and workers who were terminated during the previous 12 months, so they may contact them after the audit visit.
The inspection exit interview does not include the final detailed audit report as in an organic inspection. The auditors complete their report after any additional worker interviews that might be needed, and they make every effort to keep information they learned from individual employees confidential.
For organic farmers there is the optional advantage of combining two certifications into one inspection: Organic and Food Justice. Currently OEFFA is the sole Certification Body licensed to conduct both inspections. There would be a significant saving of time and resources as compared with audits by different certifiers.
OEFFA issues a final certification after the farm or business corrects any points of non-compliance cited in the final report.
How much does certification cost?
Certification fees are determined by the certifier. See the current fee sheet on OEFFA’s website for details.
Note that the AJP raises funding to make certification and technical assistance free to family- and community-scale farms and to BIPOC-led farms. When our funding cannot cover the full cost of certification for these farms, we will reduce the costs as much as possible. Please contact us for more information.
How much does an employer have to pay workers to qualify for FJC?
FJC standards do not establish a specific wage rate for all employers (such as minimum wage). Instead, the standards require that the employer pay a living wage for the region, calculated using local costs of living. For a rough estimate of a living wage in your area, see the MIT Living Wage Calculator, but add an additional 10% for savings (included in the AJP’s definition of a living wage but excluded from MIT’s calculation). Note that MIT’s data may also be out-of-date.
If the employer cannot pay a regional living wage currently, the standards require that employer and employees have an open and transparent discussion about what a living wage would be for the region and create a plan to raise wages to that level. During this period, the employer must share basic accounting (including revenues and expenses) of the operation with employees to demonstrate why paying a full living wage is not yet possible.
Can a non-profit farm/business qualify for FJC?
Yes. FJC includes specific standards that cover the relationship between the staff and employees of a non-profit farm/business and its board of directors. The FJC standards require that there be a democratic process for selecting the board and that there are clear channels for staff participation in board decision-making. The standards also require open communications with workers about changes to the farm/business by either the staff or the board. If the board wants to change the direction of the farm/business or add new tasks or areas of work, the staff are consulted and new tasks assigned fairly with job descriptions that do not exceed normal working hours. Board members should be qualified to make decisions related to the organization’s mission and avoid conflicts of interest. In addition, there must be a conflict resolution policy that specifically addresses appropriate procedures for disputes among board members or between board and staff members.
Can a farm qualify for FJC if it does not hire employees?
Yes. Farms without hired employees can be certified, since the standards also cover relationships and negotiations between farmers and buyers.
Are the Food Justice Certification standards just about workers?
Food Justice Certification provides for fair treatment of both farmers and workers. The vision of the Agricultural Justice Project’s certification program is to ensure and reward fair relationships throughout the food system. This includes farmers receiving a fair price for their farm products and having fair and transparent negotiations with buyers.
Can a farm qualify for FJC if it is not certified organic?
Yes. Food Justice Certified farms must be certified organic, Certified Naturally Grown, or Certified Demeter, or, alternately, they could use organic management practices without any certification. When a farm is not certified by one of these programs, it must undergo additional audit review to verify full compliance with the environmental standards that these programs share, in particular their prohibition of toxic pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, GMOs, and nano-materials.
Can a farm qualify for FJC if it is a split organic operation?
No. A farm or business may not apply for FJC for only a portion of the operation or a portion of their employees. The standards require fair treatment for workers and fair pricing for farmers as well as protection from toxic materials 100% of the time. A farm or business cannot pay living wages for work in one field or department and minimum wages in another. Individuals or companies may own both AJP certified and non-AJP certified farms and businesses, but these must be separate businesses.
Can a farm qualify for FJC if it uses a labor contractor?
Food Justice Certified standards encourage direct hiring and discourage the use of labor contractors. FJC will only allow a farmer to hire workers through a labor contractor for short periods of time and in emergencies. In each case, the farm must justify the use to the certifier and get explicit permission. If it has been the usual practice of a farm to hire through a labor contractor, the farmer must make a plan to transition to direct hiring.
Can a farm qualify for FJC if it hires workers under 18 years old?
Yes, though hiring minors for full time work is not allowed. The standards allow full time work for 16-18 year olds only if an employer can document that a minor has left school voluntarily. A farm can hire young people as long as employment on the farm does not interfere with their education. Careful supervision is required. The standards state: “Under no circumstances will minors be given tasks that expose them to hazards or potential hazards such as chemicals or machinery. Minors should not work at night, and all loads carried or lifted or other physical demands placed on them should be age appropriate. Minors should be carefully supervised. Minors will be assigned tasks commensurate with their physical limitations.” Members of the farm family are not covered by FJC standards unless they are on the farm payroll.
AJP bases its standards regarding children working on a farm on the International Labour Organization: “Not all work that children undertake in agriculture is bad for them or would qualify as work to be eliminated under the ILO Minimum Age Convention No. 138 or the Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention No. 182. Age-appropriate tasks that are of lower risk and do not interfere with a child’s schooling and leisure time, can be a normal part of growing up in a rural environment. Indeed, many types of work experience for children can be positive, providing them with practical and social skills for work as adults.” AJP defines children as under 18 years of age. In countries where young people can legally leave school at the age of 16, these standards would allow the full-time employment of 16 – 18 year olds if it can be documented that the children left school voluntarily.
Can a farm qualify for FJC if it hires guestworkers under the H2A or H2B or other guestworker program?
Yes, but the farm/business must recruit the H2A workers directly and not through a recruitment agency and must observe all FJC standards for fairness regarding working conditions for the H2A workers. Professional assistance with the paperwork is acceptable. The H2A required pay rate is higher than the minimum wage, but it does not meet the living wage rate. The employer must inform the H2A workers of their rights under FJC. All other FJC standards should also apply to H2A workers including the right to lodge grievances without retaliation. H2A usually ties workers to a particular employer so if the employer fires the worker, the worker has to return home. FJC requires that if an employer wants to terminate an H2A worker, the termination must be for just cause and the worker must be allowed to appeal the termination and remain in farm provided housing until the appeal is concluded. In using the H2A or H2B process, the farm/business is responsible for any issues arising out of the international recruitment process.
Can a farm/business be certified if it is a subsidiary of a larger corporation?
Yes, as long as the farm/business is a completely separate business entity with separate financial statements, separate organizational structures, separate paychecks for employees who work for both the subsidiary and the larger corporation, and separate names.