Certified Naturally Grown

Thank you for your interest in Certified Naturally Grown™! This page seeks to summarize the program in one quick read.
Certified Naturally Grown is a Grassroots Alternative to the USDA’s National Organic Program meant primarily for small farmers distributing through local channels – farmer’s markets, roadside stands, local restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and small local grocery stores – the farmers that make up your local landscape!

The CNG Produce Standards and growing requirements are no less strict than the USDA National Organic Program rules. The primary difference between Certified Naturally Grown and the USDA Organic program is cost to farmers and paperwork requirements.

Why is such an alternative necessary? Simply because once the National Organic Program was implemented in 2002, farmers that proudly referred to themselves as “Organic” for decades are no longer allowed to do so unless they are “certified” as such by a USDA sanctioned agency.

The cost of the new USDA program – both in terms of money and paperwork requirements – is too much for many small farmers to afford. This is even more true for farmers that grow a wide range of crops all at once. The paperwork takes more time for multi-crop farmers than large agribusiness mono-crop farms. This is a shame, because growing many different crops at once is a safer and more ecologically sustainable practice. The soil is worked in different ways, and disease and pest problems are significantly reduced.

The need for an alternative certification program – and a “New Label” became apparent in the spring of 2002 as more and more small farmers voiced their concern over the USDA requirements and declared that they were not planning on joining the new program when it went into effect in October 2002.

Certified Naturally Grown was created as a grassroots alternative to the USDA Organic program. It was created by small farmers, for small farmers, and is being run by small farmers! The same group of farmers that created, nurtured and grew the Organic label to such phenomenal public recognition and acceptance over many decades. The Organic label was not grown with government control and high licensing fees, it was grown with sweat, idealism, and farmers helping farmers to improve and stick to those ideals!

While the new USDA program forbids farm inspectors from making suggestions to improve a farmer’s situation, the Certified Naturally Grown program ENCOURAGES sharing and advice between farmers.

The crux of the Certified Naturally Grown program is that we use other organic or CNG farmers as inspectors. Farmer-Inspectors are uniquely qualified to observe and note whether their neighbors are sticking to the standards. Farmer-inspectors fill out a check-sheet inspection form and mail it back to us where it is scanned in and posted on the Internet for anytime public access.

All farmers applying to use the Certified Naturally Grown™ label must agree to do at least one inspection of another farm.

One of the most common misconceptions about the USDA Organic program is how the farm inspections are carried out. A belief has been created that USDA Organic farmers submit their soil or vegetables to “spot chemical tests” and that’s part of the reason for the added expense. This is not true. The USDA program does not require chemical tests – spot or otherwise, and instead relies on the farmer’s own declarations that they do not use chemicals. Many USDA inspectors do NOT come from an agricultural background and have only gone through a short training program before they begin their on-farm verbal verification of the farmer’s paperwork.

It is important to note that Certified Naturally Grown is NOT meant to be a slight or an attack on the new USDA Organic program in any way! While it is frustrating that we won’t be able to use a word that we’ve come to count on for decades now, the USDA program rules have been very well thought out and carefully crafted to maintain the ideals that the Organic farming movement developed and continues to live by. Having a nationally overseen and controlled program should certainly help to encourage many larger farmers to try organic agriculture knowing there is a stable and secure value-added marketing label for their products.

So, as one-time organic farmers, we applaud the growth and maturation of the Organic Label, even as we must move on to a NEW label that is “more our size.” That new label, for some of us anyway, is Certified Naturally Grown.

For more information about the program, please contact Alice Varon at 877-211-0308 or via email at info@naturallygrown.org.