National Geographic has highlighted the first organic unionized farm in America. Swanton Berry Farm, in Davenport, Calif., is among an increasing number of growers adopting a new label: Food Justice Certified.
Do we really need another label? Yes, we do!
Bruce Goldstein, president of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Farmworker Justice, estimates that of the roughly 2.5 million farmworkers in America, only around 25,000 are unionized. And only a small percent of those 25,000 work on organic farms. For many shoppers who buy organic, it may be a surprise to learn that Fair Labor practices may not play a part in producing their organic foods. Having organic certification and unionized workers is expensive and time-consuming.
“I have sympathy for farmers who feel they can’t afford to pay their workers better,” says farmer Jim Cochran, who founded Swanton in 1983. He says he is "trying to prove that it’s economically feasible to offer good benefits and a living wage, and still make money without any subsidies.
"I think that food justice is today where organic was in 1979."
Swanton is one of a small but growing number of farms adopting the consumer label. The nonprofit Agricultural Justice Project oversees the Food Justice certification of farms by monitoring and advising farms to ensure that they meet dozens of strict standards covering worker safety, compensation, transparency and fairness. Co-founder Elizabeth Henderson, herself an organic farmer, hopes the label will correct a common misconception that all food labeled organic is produced by workers who are treated well and paid a decent wage.
There are currently six Food Justice Certified farms in North America, but more than 25 others are making the improvements and undergoing the inspections necessary to earn the label.