When We Talk About Local Food, We Should Be Talking About Fair Labor  

There are many reasons why people choose to eat local first – from supporting their neighbors to making their dollars go further in the local economy to the joy of tasting seasonal and sustainably raised food.  

One more reason to eat local first? The ability to select food that’s grown, raised, caught, and harvested in accordance with your values. In addition to helping eaters and buyers source locally, Eat Local First also highlights business practices that align with the Collaborative’s core values of environmental sustainability, racial and social equity, fair labor, animal welfare, health, and accessibility. 

Farmworker Awareness Week, from March 24-31 in 2024, is a week of action for communities and individuals to bring attention to farmworkers and honor them for the contributions they make to our daily lives. In acknowledgement of this week, we want to shine a light on what “Fair Labor” indicates to us, in the hopes that it will continue to expand the conversation on farmworker rights, protections, and appreciation. Eat Local First values the health, safety, and dignity of all workers across the food value chain.  

Businesses and organizations with the Fair Labor indicator are taking steps to ensure that their workers are treated fairly and protected through governance structures, compensation models, and workplace safety measures. Certifications and attestations include Producer-Owned Cooperative, Worker-Owned Cooperative, and Union Contract. In worker-owned cooperatives, power and benefits are shared broadly to everyone who labors on a farm through its democratic, flat structure. Union contracts mean that farmworkers can build power through collective bargaining, as well as enjoy good wages, benefits, and working conditions. 

Cooperatives give farmers more ownership and control over their business enterprises, including supplies, services, and marketing. They also support farmers to share and mitigate risk, build strong relationships, and leverage their collective power for positive change.  

The Fair Labor indicator, as well as all our value indicators, are new additions to the information that Eat Local First already collects and shares through our resources and communications. We’re currently gathering and entering data to highlight businesses and organizations utilizing fair labor practices on behalf of farmworker safety.  

We want to know what you know and see in your communities. Who in your local food system is doing a good job of protecting farmworkers? This Farmworker Awareness Week, we’re hoping to hear stories of folks who are caring for the workers who in turn care for our lands, steward our seas, and feed our families.  Tell us who in your community deserves to be honored for their fair labor practices.

This story will continue to be updated with new farms and businesses as our listings continue to be updated! Stay tuned.