Brief History of Certified Naturally Grown

Press Contact
Alice Varon, Executive Director
845 687 2058 or or use our contact form

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 Standards and growing requirements are based on the USDA National Organic Program rules. They are no less strict- in fact CNG farmers are constantly improving their soil and striving to increase the sustainability of their farming operations. 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 were no longer allowed to do so unless they became "certified" 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, typical of the diversified family farms we serve, but not common among the large mono-crop farms typical of agribusiness operations. 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 - the same ones that created, nurtured and grew the organic label to such phenomenal public recognition and acceptance over many decades.

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 the farmer-to-farmer inspection approach. Farmer-inspectors are most familiar with the pest and disease challenges likely to be faced by other farmers using natural methods in their area, so they are uniquely qualified to observe and note whether their neighbors are sticking to the standards. They're also in a good position to make suggestions on how to deal with these challenges, thereby strengthening the local, natural farming community. Farmer-inspectors fill out a check-sheet inspection form and mail it back to us. It is scanned in and posted on the Internet for anytime public access.

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

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 contact Alice Varon, Executive Director
845 687 2058 * or * contact form