What We Do
The Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) works to transform the existing agricultural system. We seek empowerment, justice and fairness for all who labor from farm to retail. Central to our mission are the principles that all humans deserve respect, the freedom to live with dignity and nurture community, and share responsibility for preserving the earth’s resources for future generations.
Consolidation of power; an economy driven by profit; structural racism that has enabled consolidation of that profit and power in the hands of few via a foundation of strategic exploitation of black, brown, immigrant and native peoples; lack of transparency; and the spread of a cultural of divisiveness are among the root causes of the severe injustices in our food system. These give rise to the advantage of some people over others and invite corruption, while silencing many voices. People are pitted against people, sector against sector. Essential values are discredited and true costs externalized as we ignore the interconnectedness of whole systems. Working people who have the power to change the system remain disunited and in the dark. The very same mechanisms that have led to the need for food justice have given rise as well to the need for racial and environmental justice. The negative impacts of climate change, failure to recycle society’s wastes, and infrastructure deterioration fall most heavily on low income neighborhoods and communities of color while threatening the present and future health of all living beings. By focusing on the need for fair trading in farm products and fair treatment of food workers rooted in empowerment of those most marginalized by the current food system, AJP contributes to shifting the dominant system towards greater fairness and equity. We believe that taking care of and engaging and empowering all people is a necessary precondition for the regeneration of a viable biosphere worth sustaining. Farms and food businesses that function as cohesive, integrated, aware social organisms have a special role to play in ensuring the health of humans, cultures, animals, and our planet. Our work spans the U.S. and Canada in the following main focus areas:
Providing Certification and Technical Assistance Tools to Transform the Food System.
We provide farms and food businesses with technical tools to improve work and trade practices from farm to retail, 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 support and partner with third-party certifiers and worker organizations that carry out the certification and inspection process for the FJC program. Food Justice Certified products can be found on grocery store shelves, farmers markets, CSAs and roadside stands. We maintain a Social Justice Fund, through which five percent of all grants received are set aside, and a portion is used to subsidize certification fees through our cost share program for small family farms and independent retailers and cooperatives that have excellent labor practices, but are experiencing economic hardship.
Raising Awareness of the Need for Transforming the Food System and Models that Can Accomplish Change.
We engage in outreach and education to raise awareness of the disparities and injustice in the food system and the types of approaches needed to realize real change for those marginalized by the current system. Our awareness-raising work is done through social and public media, events and presentations, networking and partnering, contributing comments on other fair market claim programs and associations, providing tools for improving working and trade practices, and promoting the Food Justice Certified (FJC) label in the marketplace. The FJC label helps launch conversations about why such a label is needed and what it means, the existence of inequities and injustice in the food system, the need to address them, and actions that can be taken.