“Certified Naturally Grown” label brings trust and confidence to consumers

It’s tough for consumers to make sense of the many food certification labels

There’s a steadily growing plethora of food certifications out there and it’s getting pretty confusing for consumers to make sense of them. And the label “natural” has become downright suspicious and meaningless.

Among the confusion, there are labels we can trust out there, including Non-GMO Verified and perhaps Certified Humane. Now it seems there’s another one that smaller farmers are embracing and that’s trustworthy.

Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), a grassroots non-profit created by a handful of farmers from New York’s Hudson Valley who were committed to organic practices, has ts own set of standards and certification process.

The CNG standards are based on the organic standards:

  • they don’t allow synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or GMO seeds
  • they require crop rotation and soil amendments.

Certified Naturally Grown logoBut the program is broader still. Since 2010, it has covered produce farmers and livestock producers and beekeepers. (The USDA has organic standards for apiculture in the works, but they’re not  scheduled to take effect until 2016.) CNG is also in the process of developing standards for aquaponics and mushroom cultivation.

Other attractive benefits for smaller farming operations are effort and cost. CNG involves much less paperwork than the USDA organic program and it’s much more reasonably priced. The organization utilizes a peer-review inspection process: Each annual on-farm inspection is done by another CNG farmer. For free. In fact, all certified farms must inspect at least one other farm.

As to cost, the USDA organic certification for small-scale operations can cost as much as $1,000 a year, depending on the size. CNG, however, has a sliding scale that starts at $100 per year. It also has a scholarship fund for beginning farmers or those who have suffered unusual difficulties such as extreme weather or physical injury. Also, unlike the USDA certification process, it doesn’t require conventionally farmed land go through a three-year transition period before it can get be certified.

To make certification as transparent to consumers as possible, the grower’s complete application is posted on the CNG website, as is the last date of inspection and the name of the certifying farmer.

Food Allaince logoThe CNG certification is tailored to direct-market farmers, those small farmers who often frequent your favorite farmers markets. And since 2002, membership has been steadily climbing, mostly via word-of-mouth. CNG has 740 certified farms and apiaries in the U.S. The highest concentration of CNG-certified farms is in the Southeast, with a majority of them based in Georgia.

CNG’s affiliate partner is the Food Alliance label. Food Alliance farmers must practice soil and water conservation, wildlife habitat and biodiversity conservation, and prove that they’re offering safe and fair working conditions for employees. That last offers a nondiscrimination policy and benefits like health insurance and bonuses. It also has standards for livestock operations, shellfish farms, nurseries and greenhouses, and even food handling operations. You can learn more about Food Alliance and CNG by clicking here.

Clearly, if these certifications are as good as they sound, they’re a welcome relief to consumers who are faced with an overwhelming amount of confusing information. They may well simplify finding the answer to the question of what food is the healthiest or safest to buy. Or at least help clear the path to help us make better, more informed decisions..

One Response

  1. Well as I think we all agree, the term ” Organic” has become a marketing tool not a process of producing carbon based products.
    All the badge certifications do help bring awareness yet, Totally Organic or Totally Synthetic, without descriptive identification will still not identify the root problem, of explaining the material makeup of the soil that the termed Organic Foods were grown in. Chemicals, Nutrients, recycled food wastes, Bio Chars, water, pest controls, etc. ” Truly Organic” would mean that the soils used to generate the foods or feed stock used to generate the consumable products, were/are, man generated, chemical free. Add to the label of ingredients the soil the food is generated in if you want to differentiate between organic, partially organic and maybe organic.

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