Here at Ben & Jerry’s, we care about our ice cream from cow to cone. And that means that we want to support sustainable dairy practices that benefit farmers, farmworkers, cows, and the environment. Our Caring Dairy program does just that! And this month we’re celebrating the 3-year anniversary of establishing an important partnership to the Caring Dairy program: the industry-leading Milk With Dignity farmworker standard. In October of 2017, we became the first company to adopt and implement the Milk With Dignity Program, and today we’re proud of the positive impact it’s had on farmworkers.
The partnership was the result of a lot of hard work and perseverance by the true heroes in Vermont’s dairy story: the pioneering farmworkers who developed the program and the forward-looking farmers who worked to bring it to life on farms across Vermont.
What Is Milk With Dignity?
We’re glad you asked! Milk With Dignity is an independent, farmworker-led labor standard which works with farmers and farmworkers to ensure dignified working conditions on Caring Dairy farms. Caring Dairy farmers are required to commit to and actively implement the Milk With Dignity Program, which ensures that farmworkers have:
- Adequate breaks, time off, and paid sick time
- Safe working conditions
- Fair housing
- A wage increase supported by premiums paid to participating farms
- Access to a farmworker support hotline to bring questions and concerns to the Milk with Dignity Standards Council, with strict protections against retaliation
- Worker-to-worker education to ensure farmworkers know their rights and responsibilities under the program
What Makes Milk With Dignity Different?
The Milk With Dignity Program started with a grassroots, farmworker-led movement for better working conditions on dairy farms. Today, the Milk with Dignity Code of Conduct continues to be worker-led, and is overseen and implemented by a third party, the Milk with Dignity Standards Council. Milk with Dignity also uses a legally-binding agreement with buyers (like us!) that charges an additional premium for their milk purchases to support increased wages and improved conditions for farmworkers. Finally, the standard includes enforcement measures that are largely absent from other programs, like providing farmworkers with a third-party-managed hotline for questions and concerns with protections in place against retaliation.
Celebrating 3 Years Of Cow-llaboration
Since we adopted the Milk With Dignity Program on October 3, 2017, the program has allowed farmers to invest in their teams and improve their appeal to new employees. In the program’s first two years:
- The program covered more than 250 qualifying workers on 64 participating farms.
- Over $1 million invested directly into worker wages and bonuses and in improvements to housing and labor conditions.
- Plus additional premium funds retained by farms as economic support.
- The Council conducted 105 farm audits.
Read the full report here for more information. Farmworkers have seen higher wages, improved work schedules, better time off, and improved housing. So we’re raising a scoop in celebration of this groundbreaking partnership! We look forward to continuing our journey together to improve the livelihoods of the farmworkers and farmers who make our favorite ice cream flavors possible.