It’s a lot of work to achieve Food Justice Certification, and it’s even more work to promote your FJC status to your customers and community. Here we provide sample language that you can use to simplify the process of writing newsletters, social media posts, and other media to announce and celebrate your business’s hard work becoming Food Justice Certified.
Promotional text for use by FJC businesses #
About the AJP & FJC #
From our website:
The Agricultural Justice Project brings together workers, farmers, and their communities to build a food system that’s fair and just.
We convene stakeholders to set standards of food justice, rooted in accountability to workers and community-scale farmers. These standards are the basis for our Food Justice Certification program.
Through all of our programs and advocacy, we foster cooperation and solidarity among farmers, workers, and allies in order to build a movement broad and deep enough to transform the way the US grows and distributes food.
About Food Justice Certification:
Food Justice Certified (FJC) is a food label for farms, food businesses, and retailers that’s based on rigorous social justice standards for labor and trade practices. FJC standards were written by farmworkers, community-scale farmers, and other advocates for food justice, and these same stakeholders oversee the FJC certification program. FJC has been recognized by third-party evaluations as a gold standard for fair trade and fair labor practices in food and farming. The standards address fundamental requirements for fairness throughout the food system, including: fair contracts and fair pricing for farmers; fair wages and fair working conditions for workers; safe working conditions; environmental stewardship through organic practices; and truth in labeling.
To link to the AJP website, use the URL https://agriculturaljusticeproject.org.
To link to more information about Food Justice Certification specifically, use the URL https://agriculturaljusticeproject.org/fjc.
What Food Justice Certification offers…
- Summary of benefits for workers
- Summary of benefits for farmers & ranchers (selling to certified buyers)
Promoting FJC farms #
Here is the text of our basic promotional card for FJC farms:
This farm is proud to be FOOD JUSTICE CERTIFIED #
What does that mean?
Our farm meets the fair labor standards of the Agricultural Justice Project, including:
- Freedom of association & collective bargaining rights
- Living wages, or plan with workers to achieve living wages
- Transparent discipline process & just cause termination
- Complaint & grievance process w/ independent arbitrators
- Robust health and safety plan with worker leadership
- Work past 48 hrs/week optional, at least 1 day of rest/week
- Paid sick leave
- No toxic chemicals
- & more…
An independent certifier and a worker organization audit our farm and interview our employees to verify that we follow the standards, which are written and overseen by farm workers, community-scale farmers, and other stakeholders.
For more information on certification, see AgriculturalJusticeProject.org/fjc
FOOD JUSTICE CERTIFIED: GOOD FOR PEOPLE & PLANET #
Why FJC? #
Farmers and ranchers need fair prices, and workers need fair wages. All of us need safe and dignified working conditions. The US food system fails to meet these basic needs. Our farm is committed to providing good working conditions to all the members of our crew, the same way we’re committed to building a food system that cares for both people and planet. We need your support in this work. Food Justice Certification helps us demonstrate our commitment to fair labor. You can trust that when you support our farm, you’re supporting all the people who helped raise this food.
About the Agricultural Justice Project #
The Agricultural Justice Project brings together workers, farmers, and their communities to build a food system that’s fair and just. We convene stakeholders to set standards of food justice, rooted in accountability to workers and community-scale farmers. We also help farms and food businesses implement fair practices. Through all of our work we foster cooperation and solidarity among farmers, workers, and allies in order to transform the way the US grows and distributes food.
For more information about the AJP, see AgriculturalJusticeProject.org.
Messaging strategy for newsletters & social media #
Food Justice Certified businesses know that the AJP standards and certification process are complicated. This complexity can make it challenging to talk about FJC in a way that customers can connect to.
The most compelling way to talk about FJC, the standards, and the benefits it brings to your workers and your business is to connect FJC to something tangible: this usually means either current events or an experience at your workplace. See, for example, The Family Garden’s CSA newsletter that discusses what happened when a worker was injured, needed unexpected medical care, and had to miss work. This unfortunate incident provided an opportunity to talk about FJC’s requirement to carry workers compensation insurance, even when not required by law, which meant that the injured worker got appropriate care and was able to return to work after a break. Jordan, the farmer, contrasts this with the common practice of avoiding providing workers comp by hiring workers through a labor contractor, and firing farmworkers who get injured.
The sad reality is that agriculture affords a constant stream of terrible news stories about the harsh working conditions workers face. FJC farms can use these news stories as opportunities to educate their customers on the injustices of working on farms and workers’ and farmers’ vision for a better way to farm, encoded in the AJP standards. Common headlines that you might respond to include:
|Issues in agriculture||Relevant AJP standards|
|Dangers of working outside in extreme heat and wildfire smoke||Requirements around safe working conditions, worker safety committee|
|Overcrowded, unhealthy farmworker housing||Healthy, sanitary housing, including climate control to protect workers in heat waves|
|Wage theft and poverty wages||Living wages, negotiation over working conditions, no piece rate|
|Employers fighting unionization & collective bargaining||Freedom of association, collective bargaining rights, and good faith negotiations|
|Abuses by labor contractors, human trafficking||Direct hiring except in extreme cases|
…and so on.
Here are a few guidelines we recommend following:
Acknowledge injustice. Take people’s suffering seriously. Avoid the ethical pitfalls of using others’ suffering to promote your business, and focus instead on the urgent need for justice and efforts to provide better working conditions.
Educational opportunity, support for workers’ struggles, not marketing. The promise of the AJP, as a coalition of working people throughout farming and the food system, is the vision that a just world is possible. Everyone working in farming and food production deserves dignity and safety. While we are building the wider movement to force our governments to ensure better working conditions for everyone, FJC leads by example and demonstrates that better working conditions are possible.
Invitation to support and take action. Invite customers to support your farm financially as you face increased expenses trying to provide a fair workplace, but don’t stop there. If we want to transform the food system, we need a strong movement that promotes the leadership of and accountability to workers and front-line communities. Whenever possible, highlight the work of organizations locally and nationally who are doing important movement-building work. This could be a workers center, a farm worker organization, a union, a farm organization that centers worker rights, a coalition group, etc. You can and should also highlight the leadership that workers in your business bring.
To build the movement, grow our strength, and win change, potential allies need 1) knowledge, 2) motivation, and 3) a plan for action. Your relationship with your customers is an opportunity to bring them into the movement as collaborators.
Quotes & references for the media #
Elizabeth Henderson, co-founder of the AJP and retired organic farmer:
As someone who has made my living as a farmer for over 30 years, I know from experience how hard it is to get prices that fully cover the costs of running a farm which, if the farm is to be sustainable, must include living wages and decent benefits for the farmer and the farm workers. It was that experience that propelled me into working on domestic fair trade and AJP on behalf of my fellow organic farmers and NOFA.
From the Fair World Project report, Justice in the fields: A Report on the Role of Farmworker Justice Certification and an Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Seven Labels:
[The] Agricultural Justice Project is unique in addressing the full supply chain, with a focus on bringing farmers and farmworkers into further collaboration. AJP standards can be applied to any size farm with any number of farmworkers in the U.S. and Canada. AJP’s founding members include both farmworker and farmer organizations and the program includes a dual focus on farmworkers and farmers. AJP also has standards for food businesses and retailers….
The report also highlights and commends “good auditing practices” by AJP:
Agricultural Justice Project mandates a worker representative from an approved farmworker organization on the auditing team; that representative conducts worker interviews. Worker interviews are individual and confidential and critical findings may be withheld from employers to protect workers.
The report “highly recommends” AJP’s Food Justice Certification, because
[The] Agricultural Justice Project is a farmworker-led program with high standards in most areas and farmworker representatives involved in both program governance and on-farm monitoring and enforcement.
The FWP report also commends AJP for “their strong eligibility requirements [which] help consumers identify farms and businesses that have been committed to fair practices even before becoming certified.”
Alex Taylor, in “Creating a Fairer Food System” (In Good Tilth, 2018), says:
Food Justice Certification requires a deep level of transparency and documentation; an explicit conflict resolution policy is required, as is a living wage or an explanation as to why that wage cannot be met. Inspections involve in-depth interviews with individual farmworkers, conducted by a third-party farmworker’s rights organization — such as CATA or Líderes Campesinas — which fields AJP-trained representatives at inspections. The one-on-one interviews provide a safe space for workers to air grievances about everything from wage theft to sexual harassment and favoritism to living conditions, with someone who understands the struggles that farmworkers face.
Quotes from participating farmers #
Please check with AJP before publishing any of the following quotes, or any excerpts of these quotes, in your promotional materials. We need to ensure that people’s words are being used faithfully, with due credit, and in ways that respect how these comments were shared with AJP.
Nancy Vail, Pie Ranch, CA, Food Justice Certified farm:
As a farmer, I’d say we have to take care of both soil and people. AJP helps us do that… It’s our responsibility to show the world we center people in how we farm… It makes people happy knowing we believe in honoring people’s labor.
Leah Penniman, Soul Fire Farm, NY, Food Justice Certified farm:
Justice for workers has to be included in our sustainable food framework. The people who do the most important work must be treated with utmost respect, and that’s not just a feeling we hold in our hearts but that’s a tangible exercise of equal rights. […]
Soul Fire Farm participates in AJP because we believe protecting the rights of workers is paramount to protecting the earth…. It’s an opportunity to express our care and concern for our workers to our customers publicly, by proudly bearing the AJP badge. […]
My hope and dream is that workers rights become codified into policy, and it’s a shame it’s been since the 1930s that they have not been updated… While we continue to organize, it’s incumbent on us to build our own structures to build accountability, and that’s what AJP offers. Letting our customers know how much we care about human beings…and that we’re willing to do the extra labor to demonstrate that, is important and will inspire our customers.
Steve Munno, Massaro Community Farm, CT:
Agriculture is not sustainable without fair prices or wages. That’s the key element to sustainability. A lot of times we just want to talk about agricultural practices, cropping…but the people doing the farming need to be able to continue doing it… It’s a challenge to realize that because so much of the agricultural labor in the world is based on exploitation.
Additional resources #
The Charter for CSAs in USA and Canada is intended as a set of commitments between farmers and the communities they serve. The charter provides useful language for communicating your needs to your customers as well as explaining the benefits that community-oriented farms offer.
AJP Staff Talking Points on issues in the food system.