cows in field

Help Bring Social Justice to Organic Farms

By Louis H. Battalen, Northeast Coordinator, Agricultural Justice Project

The Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) and NOFA are launching a project to support the organic farming community here in the Northeast in addressing our shared social justice values while striving for dignified careers for farmers, our families, and workers on our farms. We believe our efforts are much in agreement with the four principles of NODPA’s mission, and, as such, we look forward to your collaboration in addressing and realizing them. This project offers free technical assistance and resources to farmers to help put into practice some of the hopes that farmers have but fear are too expensive to achieve.

This project, following NOFA's 2013 survey of 280 NOFA farmers confirming that organic farmers considered social justice values an important aspect to their operations, will assist farmers in recognizing the key criteria that constitute a ‘social justice’ farm and by offering farmers the tools to implement and strengthen them. We will utilize AJP's social justice standards, concentrating on the areas of relations with buyers (fair pricing, developing long term relations, achieving a premium in the marketplace) and relations with employees (health & safety, conflict resolution, and efforts to achieve a living wage).

AJP works to transform the existing agricultural system into one based on empowerment and justice and fairness for all who labor from farm to retail. We provide farms and food businesses with technical tools to improve work and trade practices, including extensive toolkits and templates, one-on-one technical assistance, and a stakeholder-driven certification program for high bar social justice standards -- Food Justice Certification (FJC), the gold standard for labor and trade practices in North America.

We are looking for 50 farms to complete this checklist. AJP will then provide each of these farms with a summary review of helpful observations and suggestions for potential next steps in implementing social justice policies and practices, including a list of resources and, if they request, templates they can adapt. What is critical here is that regardless of further participation by the farm or whether the farmers chooses to seek AJP’s Food Justice Certification, both AJP & NOFA want to encourage farmers to begin considering and developing written policies and practices relevant to their particular situation which they can begin implementing immediately. AJP wants to support farmers’ efforts at whatever level of engagement and to provide the technical assistance needed through our tool-kit resources or through future NOFA and AJP workshops and presentations on specific issues.

From this first group of 50 farmers, we will identify 20 to complete the AJP self-assessment form, with AJP trainers providing any necessary assistance gratis. Completing this assessment will provide farmers with a clear understanding of how they square up between holding values as ideals and how well these values are currently practiced, as well as how they compare with the standards of the AJP.

And, finally, AJP will select several farms where we will conduct on-site mock audits to our Food Justice standards also free of charge, and which any of the participating farmers will be welcome to attend.

The farmer voice in this process is important to us!

Go to the AJP website to learn more about AJP's social justice standards and to fill out the Farmer Benchmark Checklist online. For the paper version contact Full details of the Project are also included in the Checklist.

We anticipate completing the Checklist will take 15 minutes; responses will be confidential; and they do not require farmers walking their fields!

For this project to be successful, we are reaching out to a variety of farms, both urban & rural, trying to reach farmers who grow & raise different commodities—vegetable, field crops, dairy, fruit, and mixed livestock and poultry.

These are hard times for family-scale farms, we all know this. But there are incremental improvements farms can make that move towards putting ideals into life. Negotiating prices with a little more savvy, helping workers feel respected and part of a farm team – these are small steps in the direction of a healthier farming system.

Louis H. Battalen, Northeast Coordinator, Agricultural Justice Project can be reached by email at