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Certified 'Naturally Grown' Label: Is It Natural?

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The certified-organic label is a strict one, and that’s not a bad thing -- consumers want to know (and have the right to know) what they are putting into and on their bodies! But recently, small-scale farmers who are striving to farm naturally – without chemicals -- have expressed irritation with the organic labeling guidelines and certification process. That’s why the alternative label, Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) was born.

The Certified Naturally Grown label was started by a group of New York farmers in 2002. According to AgWeek,  the farmers created the label to oppose the federal takeover of the organic program. Some farmers think the organic certification process is expensive and cumbersome (the farmers find the federal organic program’s record-keeping requirements troublesome and the fees too high).

According to the Certified Naturally Grown organization, items that bear this label are grown using the same standards as produce that’s organic, but the National Organic Program of the USDA does not certify the produce. The label is ideal for producers who sell mainly through CSAs, farmers markets and local food businesses.

According to CNG, if produce bears the CNG label, it is free of:

  • Synthetic fertilizers
  • Pesticides
  • Herbicides
  • Fungicides or GMO seeds

There are three different certification programs in the CNG:

  • Produce (fruits, veggies, and maple) $125-200 per year. The minimum due for produce certification is $110.
  • Apiary (beekeepers) $75-200 per year.
  • Livestock (includes poultry and eggs) $125-200 per year. The minimum due for livestock certification is $110, too.
  • There’s also a Scholarship Fund available for farmers who are experiencing financial difficulties.

All farmers interested in bearing the label must fill out an application and sign a CNG declaration. Each farm also must:

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From the Organic Authority Files

Arrange an on-farm inspection: Every farm arranges its own on-site inspection. Inspections are done by volunteers (ideally by other CNG farmers) and are free. All CNG farmers and beekeepers should do one inspection of another CNG farm or apiary every year.

Record keeping: Farmers must maintain records of receipts and orders of the following:

  • Seed and transplant orders.
  • Soil amendment items.
  • Organically acceptable botanical and biological pesticides.
  • An updated copy of the farm’s application.
  • “Farmers that need to use chelated micronutrients to correct a soil deficiency must have soil tests from within the last one year that specifically note the deficiency.” -- CNG

After a farmer fills out a CNG application and undergoes the required annual inspection, the farmer’s land may be subject to unannounced pesticide residue testing.

Want to read about a producer who has opted to get certified organic, and a few others who oped out? Read the articles below:

Mile High Organics Becomes Certified Organic Online Retailer

2 Oregon Goat Cheese Farmers Who Opt Out of Organic Certification

For more CNG produce requirements, go here.

For more CNG livestock requirements, go here.

Image credit: rhett maxwell

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