The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) was begun in recognition that aligning the interests of farm workers, growers and food retailers in collaboration could be a different way to ensure that farm workers earned decent wages and labored in a safe, dignified environment. Virginia Nesmith, former Executive Director of NFWM, was a founding member of the EFI in 2008 and represented NFWM there until 2012.
Facilitated by Oxfam America, EFI’s development included farm worker unions, UFW, PCUN and FLOC, allies NFWM and Farm Worker Justice, food safety and environmental experts, Costco, Bon Appetit and strawberry grower Andrew and Williamson followed by other Costco suppliers. NFWM was instrumental in bringing the diverse groups together and helping to navigate the complexities of establishing collaboration and mutual trust between the parties.
The Equitable Food Initiative released a set of rigorous standards in 2011 in the areas of farm labor conditions, food safety and pesticide use. In addition to outside auditing, a key element of the EFI was to train farm worker leadership teams at each workplace who were empowered to enforce standards and to learn, along with management, new communication skills. NFWM’s Board visited farms to hear firsthand about the positive results of the EFI process. “The idea that farm worker conditions could improve through working together was pretty exciting to our member organizations,” said Virginia. They looked forward to promoting the EFI label among their constituents.
EFI exists today as an independent non-profit organization dedicated to transforming agriculture and cultivating fair working conditions for farm workers. As of March 2021, there are 45 certified farm locations, 42,000 workers on farms with EFI-trained leadership teams, and $9.8+ million dollars in generated worker bonuses.