Transparency = Trust
You’re standing in the grocery store aisle. Everywhere you look there are labels making all kinds of claims. When you pick up that “certified” item at the grocery store, we know you’re wondering: Does this label really mean anything?
A certification system is only as meaningful as the “truth” behind its label. Therefore our number one commitment is to transparency. The Agricultural Justice Project, stakeholders are made up of non-profit organizations, farms and food businesses with a long history of advocating for increased transparency and integrity in organic certification. We are committed to developing a system without loopholes, and a label that consumers can trust.
We have built transparency into our program in many ways:
High percentage requirements for multi-ingredient productsThe certification label on your box of mac-n-cheese is only as truthful as its labeling requirements are strong.Your favorite processed foods, like granola bars or pasta sauce, are made up of many different ingredients coming from many different farms and processors. When you see a certification label on the front of a processed product, you expect that all of those ingredients, farms and processors involved met the standard. The label should mean that the actual food in that package is certified.Whether or not that is true depends on the labeling requirements.
Companies “Apple Happy” and “Super Sauce” make the exact same product. Their raw ingredients (apples, sugar, cinnamon) come from the same farms and processors. Apple Happy carries “A” certification. Super Sauce carries “B” certification. In the grocery store, both jars of apple sauce look exactly the same – with a full color label on the front panel.However: Certification “A” has a very low labeling requirement for multi-ingredient products. Certification B’s requirements are much higher. Apple Happy only has to use certified sugar to qualify for full use of the label. Super Sauce has to have certified sugar AND apples. Which one would you rather buy?
“Participatory Process” – Standards and Certification Program
AJP recognizes that we are not the experts. The farmers, farmworkers, restaurant owners, processor workers, and all other food system stakeholders (including you the consumer!) are the real experts.
AJP has made it our mission to include stakeholder representatives in every step of our development. We have also convened a formal advisory committee made up of representatives of each major stakeholder group to oversee all of our work and keep us on track.
The FJC Standards themselves were developed over a decade long process of compiling input from stakeholders world wide. Navigate to our Learn More tab at the top to read about our standards development.
We also believe that stakeholders should play more of a role in actual certification. That’s why we include a representative of a workers’ rights organization in the audit team that inspects any farms or businesses with hired labor.
Please give us feedback! Our standards and policies are living documents. Help us make our system more transparent, representative and fair by sending us your thoughts.
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.
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 labor, 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 our work at Lola’s Organic Farm, please email: email@example.com.
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.
"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, a small highly diversified farm in Grafton, New York, 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. Soul Fire Farm is committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system.
“Soul Fire Farm proudly sought the Agricultural Justice Project's Food Justice Certification, recognizing that to date, it is the only farm certification that commits to an unequivocal focus on the rights of food system and food chain workers, centers farm worker-led organizations, and was developed primarily by farm workers and farmers in a participatory stakeholder process. As collaborators in a movement that honors the people whose labor has built the food system in this country, we 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, we value FJC's insistence on fair pricing and fair labor practices that challenge food apartheid and the devaluing of the people who steward the land.
At Soul Fire Farm, we go beyond the organic standards and the FJC standards by working to dismantle the racist structures that misguide our food system. Through programs such as the Black-Latinx Farmers Immersion, sliding scale CSA farm share, and youth food justice leadership training, we 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 our own team, we strive to mirror the healing justice we seek in the world by uplifting radical self-care, community accountability, compassionate communication, distributed leadership, fair compensation, and commitment to personal and professional development. - The Soul Fire Farm Team
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.”
The Food Justice Certified (FJC) standards were originally developed by AJP over a four year period of stakeholder input—involving farmers, farmworkers, interns and apprentices, and indigenous, retail, and consumer groups—and are an attempt to codify in concrete terms what making a legitimate claim of “social justice” in organic and sustainable agriculture means. AJP has a standard practice of revising our stakeholder-developed standards document every five years. The process is based on ISEAL’s best practices for standards revisions and typically takes about 18 months from start to finish.
FJC Standards address:
Download 2019 Version of Full Standards Document (English) and 2016 Version of Full Standards Document (Spanish) (updated Spanish version coming soon) Visit our Standards Revisions page to learn more about our stakeholder driven revisions process.
AJP is continually seeking comment on our draft standards for Labor Contractors, and we are also seeking Labor Contractors willing to participate in a pilot project to pursue certification. These standards will not be finalized before that pilot project is completed. They are embedded in draft form in our 2019 standards document.
Transparency in a Complex Food System
Our food system is complicated. After ingredients leave the farm, even simple products might pass through many links in the food chain – processors, distributors, and other businesses – before they reach consumers.
These middle links often become invisible to consumers, despite the fact that many human rights abuses could take place at the processor level.
To maintain truth in labeling, Food Justice Certified uses three tiered labeling to communicate to consumers how many links in the chain were certified in the production of a product.
Don’t Forget to Check the Ingredients List!
For multi-ingredient products, such as soup, we require that a significant amount of the total ingredients are certified before our label can be placed on the product. But, manufacturers may pring "Food Justice Certified" in the ingredients list in this case.
For example: If a can of chicken soup only contains Food Justice Certified carrots, the manufacturer would print "Food Justice Certified carrots" in the ingredients list instead of placing a label on the front.
Why make it complicated? This encourages further development of certified supply chains, and prevents "fair-washing" or mis-labeling.
1. Food Justice Certification Trainings
Just Completed: Training April 2-5th in Deerfield, MA
Are designed for certifiers, worker organizations and independent inspectors that have interest in participating in the Food Justice Certification process. The training is also open to the general public, educators, advocates, and researchers who want to understand the technical aspects of the Food Justice Certification program.
The training devotes a day-and-a-half to presentations and discussions, and then conducts three field inspections where the participants first observe, then assist the trainers in guided inspections, and finally perform an inspection while observed by their trainers. Classroom work alternates formal presentations with participatory exercises and covers the following topics:
The training concludes with a written exam. Once the exam and final paperwork are completed a certificate is awarded to the participant, enabling them to participate in the first domestic social justice certification program to launch in North America.
2. Food Justice Certified Reviewer Training
Reviewer trainings cover the same classroom material as the full inspector training, but they do not include the day-and-a-half of field inspections. This training is geared towards support staff working for approved certifiers or worker organizations that would like to review files and learn more about the Food Justice Certified program and process. By completing the Reviewer Training and successfully passing the exam, trainees are qualified to review files for Food Justice Certified applicants being processed by an approved certifier or worker organization.
3. Training the Trainer
AJP offers Training the Trainer for farmworker organizations. The training focuses on labor rights and rights covered under Food Justice Certification. This training prepares participants to facilitate a 2 - 3 hour worker training on FJC farms to educate them on their rights under the law and under FJC. The typical Train the Trainer is covered over 2 days. The following topics are covered:
If you are interested in attending our next training or would like more information about the standards, trainings, and technical assistance to prepare for certification, please contact AJP.
4. Five-Year Refresher Course
Every five years trained inspectors and file reviewers must complete a refresher course to maintain their status. The refresher course can be completed remotely and must be completed within the fifth year (dated from certificate of completion) to remain active. To complete your refresher course start by watching the videos. Once you have completed the viewing contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a short survey.