Cultivating a Better Future for Farmworkers

Farmworker Awareness Week is an important moment for us to bring attention to the challenges farmworkers face and honor their crucial role in our everyday lives. Farmworkers are the backbone and caretakers of our food system. Without them it would not be possible to have safe, healthy, and affordable food.

Despite their importance, farmworkers are among the most disadvantaged working groups, facing racial discrimination, gender discrimination, unfair market conditions, predatory trade agreements, climate change, and more. Yet, they continue to produce.

This is why Fair Trade is so critical. Fair Trade USA™ standards protect the fundamental rights of farmworkers and support safe working conditions, better wages, and access to services such as healthcare and safety training. Fair Trade Certified™ farms are audited against our Agricultural Production Standard (APS), which includes requirements around fire safety, sanitary working and living conditions, and the use of protective equipment to prevent injuries, sicknesses, and pesticide exposure.

Eva, a female employee harvests pineapple at a Fair Trade Pineapple Farm in Costa Rica.

A female employee harvests pineapple at a Fair Trade Pineapple Farm in Costa Rica.

Fair Trade Helps Farmworkers Enhance Communities

In addition to our standards, another key component of the Fair Trade Certified program is Community Development Funds. For every Fair Trade Certified product sold, companies pay an additional sum of money called a Fair Trade Premium that goes back to the workers at origin in the form of Community Development Funds. From there, a democratically elected committee of workers decides how to invest these funds in programs and services that address the most pressing needs of their families and communities. Fair Trade helps farmworkers gain agency to make their own investment decisions, and participate in the process of electing a Fair Trade Committee that manages projects empowers worker voice and participation.

Pineapple Farm, Finca Muelle, Invests in Education and Health

In 2017, workers at Finca Muelle, a Fair Trade Certified farm in Costa Rica that produces pineapple for Dole, invested Fair Trade Community Development Funds into a new community center. The center offers academic training, occupational courses, and health fairs – programs which were identified in the first needs assessment in 2014.

“Having a center where our family can learn is of great importance to us as workers,” says Aracelly Murillo Ríos, Planting Worker at Finca Muelle. “I had never been in front of a computer before. I hadn’t even turned one on, let alone touched one.” Only completing up to the third grade in school, Ríos began studying in 2019, receiving excel and financial well-being training. “To anyone who says it’s impossible: I say it can be done.”

Aracelly Murillo Ríos Talks About Her Education Journey

The education center offers ongoing courses in digital literacy, accreditation in skills such as occupational health, food handling, and administration, primary and secondary education completion courses, and road safety tutorials.

Meylin Ramírez Reflects on the Impact of the Community Center

Another program participant, Meylin Ramírez Sequeira, left school at 13 years old due to economic conditions at home. Sequeira started and completed her primary education at the education center. After taking additional training courses like entrepreneurship, Sequeira eventually started her own business. “I am an entrepreneurial woman,” she said.

Damaso Méndez Vásquez Shares His Smile

To date, four health fairs have been held at Finca Muelle, offering workers a range of services that span vision exams and correction, dental exams ultrasounds, and X-rays, benefiting more than 3,000 people. Packaging Worker, Damaso Méndez Vásquez expressed gratitude, stating, “It has been a great blessing for us.” Before receiving dentures and eyeglasses through the fair, he found himself smiling less, preoccupied with the challenges he faced.

“Fair Trade for us workers means opportunities to improve our living conditions,” Vásquez says, adding, “Now, I smile more freely. Now, I feel happy.”

Take Action for Farmworkers Around the World

When you choose ethically sourced produce, like award-winning Fair Trade pineapple, you become part of a solution that actively works to empower farmworkers and their communities. In 2023, Fair Trade USA partners sold over 638 million pounds and stems of Fair Trade Certified produce and flowers, generating over $20 million in Community Development Funds for farmworkers in 16 different countries.

Together, we can show our support for farmworkers, improve lives, and protect the planet by purchasing with purpose.

Honor farmworkers this Farmworker Awareness Week, and all year long by looking for our Fair Trade Certified label when you are shopping. It’s a way to give back to global farming communities –they need us, just like we need them.

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Interested in Selling Fair Trade Pineapple?

If you are wondering how to get your supply chain Fair Trade Certified or want to learn more about sourcing, selling, or promoting Fair Trade Certified products — we can help! Fill out the Fair Trade Certified Partnership Inquiry form, and we will guide you to the next steps.

Yeris Hernandez (left), and Sofia Alvarado, preselect recently-harvested fair trade pineapples at Finca La Virgen.