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Application 101

Farms choose CNG certification for all kinds of reasons. Some are required to have certification to sell at their farmers market or food coop, others love the peer review inspection system, while plenty are just tired of the confusing elevator speech to customers explaining their growing practices: “I can’t say that I’m organic, but I follow organic practices.” Despite each farmer’s motivation for joining CNG, all want to verify their practices without breaking the bank or adding hours of paperwork to their already tight farm schedules.

I enjoy being CNG because it provides accountability to my CSA members and market customers for my growing practices. I appreciate the peer review system because I feel connected to a community of small-scale, sustainable farmers across the country.

— Liz Visser, Blandford Nature Center Farm

Early spring is application season at CNG and now is a great time to apply! Intimidated about the process? We’ve got your back. Applying for certification is not as scary as you might think. Read on for “Application 101” to make sure you’re prepared and empowered to get that application in this spring!

Check Out the Standards

First, it’s always best take a look at the standards and make sure that CNG seems like a good fit for your farm. CNG has five certification types: Produce & Flowers, Mushrooms, Livestock, Apiary, and Aquaponics. Since Produce & Flowers is by far our most popular certification type, we’ll focus on that program, but the process is the same across the board and folks interested in applying for a program other than Produce & Flowers can start here.
While you can certainly read through the CNG Produce Standards, checking out the FAQs and filtering by your operation type may be quicker and more helpful. When reviewing the standards, you want to determine if your practices mostly align with those you see outlined. If there are any standards that seem especially confusing or you’re unsure if your operation is a good fit, don’t hesitate to reach out to CNG, we’re happy to help! 
Another great way to prepare is to preview the application. This allows you to see every question before you begin the process. Keep in mind that all possible questions appear on the application preview so you will see questions that may not pertain to your operation and will be filtered out once you’re filling out the actual application (i.e. questions for maple or microgreens producers only).

For even more info about the CNG program you’re interested in, visit the certification homepages. These are landing pages for all five certification types that link to tons of useful info, forms, and resources relevant to each program. From the CNG website homepage these pages can be found by hovering over the “Certification” heading in the top menu and clicking your desired certification type.

Still need some convincing? Watch a real CNG Inspection in action in our 10 minute film, What to Expect When Your Inspecting. Or, if you’re more of an auditory learner, give our About CNG Webinar a listen for info on the certification process, perks, and marketing tips.

Application Prep

Once you’ve checked out the standards and determined that CNG is right for you, it’s helpful to make a few lists that will help you when you’re filling out the application.

Farm Inputs

Make a list of your farm inputs. The application will ask what fertility, pest, disease, and weed management inputs you use on your farm. If you can, it’s great to know the full product name, manufacturer, and OMRI-status (if applicable) of each input. Don’t worry if you don’t have everything on hand right away or are not sure of the manufacturer of a certain input, just do the best you can to list your inputs and the certification specialist can follow up with you on any missing information once you’ve submitted your application.

Not applying for Produce & Flowers? Mushroom growers, make a list of your spawn and substrate suppliers. Livestock producers, a feed suppliers list will be helpful. Beekeepers, you’ll want to make an input list too.

Seed Sources

Make a list of what suppliers you source your seed from, including cash crop seed, cover crop seed, garlic, seed potatoes, sweet potato slips, flower bulbs, corms, tubers, etc. and other planting stock. If you purchase annual or perennial transplants, make note of those suppliers too.


Once you’re ready to apply, give yourself 30-40 minutes to sit at the computer (a little longer if you haven’t compiled your input and planting stock lists yet) and get started! You’ll find links to the application in several locations across the site: on the certification pages mentioned above or find the orange APPLY! button in the “Certification” top menu, under “Get Certified.”

If you haven’t set up a CNG account, make sure to do that before you start your application by clicking Log In and then Register for a New Account.

As you’re filling out the application, do the best you can to provide an accurate picture of your operation, but don’t stress too much if a question is confusing or you feel like you didn’t explain a practice very well. The application review period is designed to clear these things up, so just do your best.

If you need to step away from the computer in the middle of your application session, make sure to hit “Save & Continue.” This feature allows you to return to your application at a later time, right where you left off. You’ll receive a “continue link” by email from the CNG site to use whenever you’re ready to finish your application. Please make sure to use the “Save and Continue” option if you’re not able to finish applying in one sitting so you don’t have to start over!

Folks who would prefer to mail in a paper application can request one by contacting CNG, but keep in mind that paper application processing does take longer.

Application Review

Once you’ve hit “Submit” your application is officially in, woo hoo! You’ll receive an email from the Certification Specialist within 10 days to begin the application review process. (If you submit your application before the April 1st Spring Application Deadline, you’ll receive a reply within a week and be certified for spring)!

In the initial email from the Certification Specialist, they’ll ask follow up questions, clarify standards and request missing information. If possible, reply in a timely manner and provide the requested clarifications. As you provide additional information in your email replies, the Certification Specialist will update your application accordingly. This ensures that your application, which will be publicly available once you’re fully certified, is a complete and accurate representation of your farm.

As long as you’ve provided the additional information requested by the Certification Specialist and your practices, inputs, and sources are inline with CNG standards, your application will be Accepted!

Accepted and Beyond

Once your application is accepted, you’ll be able to complete the annual requirements and then become officially Certified Naturally Grown!

  1. Pay your membership dues — We recommend annual dues of $300-$350, with minimum dues of $250. You determine the amount that’s right for your operation or apply for the Grassroots or Equity Funds for financial assistance.
  2. Sign and submit your declaration — Your signature on the Declaration indicates you understand and accept the terms of participating in the CNG program.
  3. Schedule and receive a peer review inspection — Inspections must be done during the growing season and according to the Inspection Guidelines and Forms.

Please visit the Annual Requirements page or contact CNG below for assistance with these certification steps.

Whether you are still figuring out if certification is right for you, you’re halfway through your application, or you’re trying to schedule your first inspection, CNG is here for you! We are happy to help, regardless of where you are in the process, so reach out!

Our goal is to provide a practical certification that balances high standards and robust verification with minimal paperwork, reasonable costs, and tons of farmer support. Can’t wait to hear from you!

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