March 2021 | Fruit & Vegetable News magazine

Growcom’s Fair Farms program, which supports growers in proving their commitment to fair wages and decent treatment of the labour force in the horticultural industry, has started to gain ground with the number of certifications issued to farmers doubling since June last year. 

Fair Farms is a training and certification program for employers in the horticulture sector. It is designed to help farmers engage in fair and ethical work practices.  

It provides growers with best-practice standards for the fair and equitable treatment of employees, in a simpler, less expensive, and locally-designed process that farmers can use to demonstrate they conform to the law and treat workers well.  

Fair Farms National Program Manager Marsha Aralar said since June many growers had started the certification process with the program experiencing a 219 per cent increase in the number of producers registered to participate in the program.

“This is a promising result and indicates a growing intent along the supply chain to demonstrate a commitment to fair and equitable work practices and eradicating exploitation,” Ms Aralar said.   

“At its heart, Fair Farms is about giving producers easy and affordable access to the resources they need to understand and conform with various laws that underpin the fair treatment of workers.   

“It’s about levelling the competitive playing field by raising awareness and commitment to good work practices and conditions while reducing the burden of unnecessary red tape for farmers.” 

For those few bad seeds that do not do the right thing, Fair Farms will help weed them out and, through industry and community sentiment, eradicate them from the market.    

“It’s not fair for exploitative operators to achieve the same prices in market as those operators who are paying and treating their workers fairly,” Ms Aralar said.  

“Decent operators are fed up with being tarnished with the same brush as a few opportunistic operators.” 

Ms Aralar said that Fair Farms, which had been designed in collaboration with businesses along the supply chain, was about creating a movement of those who want their produce delivered to the table having been grown ethically and to the highest standards.   

“Consumers don’t want wholesome foods like fruit and vegetables produced through unwholesome work practices,” Ms Aralar said.  

“With Fair Farms certification, growers will be able to show their commitment to fair and equitable work practices – and this will mean greater access not only to a more willing and able labour force, but to retailers, like Aldi, Coles and Woolworths, who want to meet the needs of customers who increasingly demand products that have been ethically sourced. 

“Ultimately, the Fair Farms program is about ensuring Australia has a strong, thriving horticultural industry which benefits not only individual farmers and the industry, but the broader community as a whole.”  

In December 2020 Fresh Markets Australia (FMA) the national organisation representing each of the five Market Chambers formerly endorsed the Fair Farms program. 

General Manager, FMA Gail Woods said “Fair Farms certification is relevant across the supply chain. The time commitment and the cost of compliance for the industry is increasing, and FMA considers Fair Farms as a straight-forward and affordable compliance option that not only meets the requirements of major supermarkets responsible sourcing policies, but also validates good employee practices.