ASC to Host Workshops on Preparing the Ground for Local Fair Trade

Alfred State College will host two half-day workshops on Preparing the Ground for Local Fair Trade Monday, March 29, 2010, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Pioneer Lounge on the Alfred campus.

For a farm to be sustainable, the farm needs a steady, well-trained labor force and the products of the farm must bring a price in the marketplace that covers the cost of production, a living wage for the farmer, money to do repairs and maintenance, funds to pay for continuing education for the farm staff and to make improvements to the farm. Many family-scale organic farmers have the best intentions, but under the day-to-day pressures of farming, do not take the time to learn all the relevant laws and regulations, or to document their well-intentioned practices. The purpose of these workshops is to provide the concrete information and documentation a farmer needs.

The first workshop, “Creating an Effective Workforce for Your Farm,” 9 a.m. – noon, will focus on workers’ right to safe working conditions, just treatment, and fair compensation. Elizabeth Henderson, Peacework Organic Farm, Newark, (a cooperatively managed organic vegetable farm on 18 acres), and author of Sharing the Harvest, the manual on CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), and Robert Hadad, Cornell Vegetable Program Fresh Market Specialist, will help you think through labor policies for your farm including employees and interns. They will share templates for policies, job descriptions with clear expectations, contracts, and safety training, and provide information on New York State legalities governing pay rates, insurance, other forms of compensation, and housing. They will stress the importance of establishing a process for conflict resolution. Attendees will receive a copy of the Agricultural Justice Project Tool-Kit.

The second workshop, “Getting a Fair Price that Covers Your Farm’s Production Costs Plus a Reasonable Profit,” 12:30 – 3:30 p.m., will instruct farmers on acquiring a fair price for their products by developing their skills in calculating their costs of production, understanding the difference between fixed and variable costs, and setting up a simple but thorough system for documenting expenses and revenues and generating the data they need.

Because a solid grounding in your farm's finances can also serve as the basis for effective negotiations with buyers, Henderson will present an overview of the importance of value-based goals for your farm’s economics. Hadad will review and analyze existing training programs and demonstrate some of the tools from Richard Wiswall's The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops and Staff – and Making a Profit (Chelsea Green, 2009) and Brian Caldwell's new spread sheets for calculating crop production costs and revenues.

The workshop will conclude with a discussion of money issues for farms – can we afford to pay more than minimum wage to workers? What happens if the state requires time- and-a-half for overtime? How can we get prices that allow us to cover costs and provide a decent benefits package for ourselves and our workers? Can local trade become fair trade? Would a fair trade add-on to organic certification help market your farm's products? Please come ready to share your farm’s numbers and to talk!

The cost of these workshops is $30 ($25 NOFA-NY members) and includes a light lunch and a copy of Richard Wiswall's The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook.

Please RSVP to Robert Hadad, Cornell Vegetable Program Fresh Market Specialist, by Friday, March 26. If you include your e-mail address, you will receive an electronic copy of the Agricultural Justice Project Tool-Kit, a guide to good farm labor policies. You may reach Hadad via e-mail at rgh26@cornell.edu or by phone at (585) 739-4065.