Hardee Fresh, an indoor, organic vertical farming company, has joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' (CIW) Fair Food Program (FFP), a human rights initiative that aims to monitor and enforce workplace protections on US farms.
The partnership between CIW and Hardee Fresh marks the entry of the Fair Food Program, launched in 2011 in Florida's tomato industry, into the country's growing leafy greens market. The new partnership also makes Hardee Fresh, whose farm is located in Wauchula, Florida, the Fair Food Program's first Participating Grower from the vertical farming sector.
By joining the Fair Food Program, Hardee Fresh is reaffirming its commitment to a safe and fair environment for its farmworker staff. The FFP's mix of monitoring tools — including a 24/7 trilingual complaint hotline, worker-to-worker rights education, comprehensive field and farm office audits, and market consequences for violations of its human rights-based code of conduct — has been praised by human rights observers from the White House to the United Nations. The Fair Food Program works as a partnership among farmworkers, Participating Growers like Hardee Fresh, and Participating Buyers – including organic food leader Whole Foods Market – who agree to pay growers a premium that is passed on to workers as a bonus on their regular paychecks. Participating Buyers also preferentially purchase from growers certified to be in good standing with the Program's human rights-based code of conduct by the Fair Food Standards Council, the FFP's independent monitor.
Halton Peters, Co-Founder and President of Hardee Fresh, lauded the new partnership: "At Hardee Fresh, we want to provide the best produce for our customers and the best working conditions and opportunities for advancement for our workers. We want to be the best steward of the environment in the agricultural industry and the best citizen in the communities in which we live and work. Participation in the Fair Food Program furthers the pursuit of our goal and just the most recent expression of our longstanding core beliefs."
The CIW's Leonel Perez, who helps lead the Fair Food Program's worker-to-worker education efforts, celebrated the announcement, saying, "The world of agriculture is changing, and the rise of vertical farming is a key example of that shifting landscape. We're excited to welcome Hardee Fresh into the Program and to show once again that, when there is mutual commitment, the Fair Food Program can be successfully adapted to nearly any crop and farming environment. With the dedication of all the partners and the leadership of farmworkers themselves, together we can ensure that these jobs, whether indoors or outdoors, are fair and dignified."