It’s a year for expansion and building name recognition.
Those are two critical goals for the Equitable Food Initiative, a labor and supply chain certification body based in Washington, DC. The organization, whose standards and certification is designed to apply to fruit and vegetable crops and includes addressing a variety of aspects of the business--from labor conditions to food safety to pest management--was founded as an independent organization in 2015.
As it moves out of its start-up phase, EFI has reached a few notable milestones, namely expanding into one new country and counting 30 farm certifications to its name. “We’re delighted to certify our first operation in Guatemala—this means we have four different countries including the United States, Canada and Mexico with certified operations,” says EFI’s Peter O’Driscoll. He also notes that EFI has another 17 more companies who currently have trained leadership teams on their farms and are in the audit and certification process.
Farm in Guatemala that was recently certified by EFI.
At the same time, on a larger scale, EFI and the issues it’s raising awareness around, continues to gain more attention industry wide, including from trade shows and associations. Last summer for example, the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices was introduced by the Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association. More recently, EFI and GoodFarms, the Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce brand that was an early adopter of Equitable Food Initiative’s workforce development and certification program, were jointly recognized for creating the EFI Continuous Improvement Teams on Good Farms’ operations in Mexico. This initiative was included in Gateway to Innovation showcase at the Viva Fresh Expo last month.
“It’s inspiring to us to see how the industry is embracing what we’re doing,” says O’Driscoll. “Our evaluation studies are showing the industry all of the positive effects of our model and it’s really good to see them as a whole recognizing this approach as an innovation.”
Farm workers at recently certified farm in Guatemala.
It’s also working on consumer recognition. Next month, in Costco stores in California, Oregon and Washington, EFI is doing a promotional campaign for consumers about what the Responsibly Grown, Farmworker Assured label means. “Consumers get to vote with their food dollars every day,” says EFI’s LeAnne R. Ruzzamenti. “As they learn about what our label means, they realize that they have a choice with every purchase.”
Looking ahead towards the second half of 2019, EFI hopes to reach a few sectors in agriculture that it hasn’t worked with yet. And it also is working on its Global Food Safety Initiative accreditation. “We’re in the process of getting that done and hope to by the second half of 2019. And then our certification becomes a one-stop shop audit for the industry,” says O’Driscoll.