Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) is a grassroots alternative to the UDSA’s Certified Organic program. CNG follows the Certified Organic standards, but the inspections are conducted by other CNG farmers rather than by government inspectors.
This past winter, I went back and forth on whether or not to become certified. (Other farms have been dealing with this issue as well.) On the one hand, for small market farms like ours that sell directly to their customers, certification seems irrelevant, because the relationships we form are their own kind of certification. Want to know what my practices are? You may ask me directly, or you are more than welcome to visit to the farm to see for yourself.
On the other hand, after a couple of seasons in the marketplace, I have seen too many shenanigans regarding farms’ claims about their growing practices. Friends, the fact is that some farmers play fast and loose with terms like “natural,” “sustainable,” “homegrown,” “local,” and even “organic.” (There was an excellent recent article about the false claims made at farmers’ markets and farm-to-table restaurants in Florida, and I assure you the same sorts of things are happening right here in West Michigan.)
I concluded that some sort of third-party authentication would set us apart from these others, and CNG appealed to me more than USDA Organic, mainly because of CNG’s emphasis on collegiality and community among like-minded growers. Rather than a top-down approach geared toward punishing violations, CNG farmers come alongside each other to bring each other into compliance. I like that.
And now our customers and members can be extra confident that we are doing what we say we are doing: growing fresh, nutrient-dense produce with zero harmful, synthetic chemicals according to sustainable and ecological principles — in other words, we are Certified Naturally Grown.