Two farms in Red Tomato’s network will participate in the pilot during the 2017 growing season.
EFI said its approach was based on collaboration among workers, farmers, and retailers who support the farms by designating the grower as a preferred supplier.
By creating on-farm leadership teams that include workers from all parts of the operation and focus on continuous improvement, the EFI certification addresses three areas: labor standards, sustainable agricultural practices and food safety standards.
“Throughout our 20 year history, we’ve worked with our growers to understand the many issues surrounding farm labor,” Red Tomato executive director Laura Edwards-Orr said.
“When we began discussions with EFI, growers in our network were especially interested in the worker training and empowerment component of the program.
Farmers see value in food safety and lean management training that empowers their employees to improve product quality, but also workflow, farm productivity and profitability.”
EFI executive director Peter O’Driscoll said the initiative had successfully brought assurance and systemic change to large-scale farms and was now excited to partner with Red Tomato to apply the training and certification model to their network of smaller, local farms.
“To create a safer, more equitable food system, both small and large farms must be part of the solution, and our partnership with Red Tomato will help farms of various sizes learn from one another,” he said.
The Red Tomato-EFI pilot will look at how EFI certification, so far only adopted by large west coast and international farms, can apply to mid-sized farms in the Northeast.
Funded in part by Oxfam America and the United States Department of Agriculture Local Food Promotion Program, the partners will explore costs and potential for collaboration on certification, including on farm training.
They will also focus on the ability of Northeast farms to comply with EFI labor standards given the unique make-up of the agricultural workforce in the region, which includes local and seasonal workers along with significant reliance on the H2A worker visa program.