"Organic" has been thrown around so much that it's hard to tell if some of the things we buy are really organic at all. Do the organic standards for produce coming from Chile match the standards in the United States? It's hard to know. Maybe they're better, maybe they're worse. Certified Naturally Grown is farmers policing themselves and each other. It is an honor system and, I feel, a point of honor, to raise the best/healthiest/chemical free vegetables, chickens, pigs etc. that I can.
Certified Naturally Grown offers certification programs for produce, apiaries, and livestock. The standards generally follow the USDA organic practices.
1. Complete Certification Application/s Online Each type of certification has its own application: Produce (fruits, veggies, and maple), Apiary (for beekeepers), and Livestock (includes poultry and eggs). Once accepted, applications become part of your online farm profile on on the CNG website. This public document should be kept updated to reflect your current practices.
Be prepared to sit down for about an hour to complete the online certification application. Most of the answers you will probably know off the top of your head.
2. Make a Contribution An annual financial contribution is required for certification. We recommend $125 - $200 per year, and the minimum contribution for livestock or produce certification is $110. The apiary certification program is newer, so while a contribution is required, and we recommend $75 - $200 per year, we don't specify a minimum. You may wait until after your application is accepted to make your contribution.
I certified my produce, and while $125 - $200 is recommended, a lesser amount, at this time, will be accepted.
3. Sign & Return Your Declaration/s This is quick and easy, but essential. Your signature indicates you meet and agree to all the Certified Naturally Grown standards, and you understand and accept the terms of participating in the CNG program. Your signed Declaration will be posted on your online profile. Declarations must be returned annually to keep your certification in good standing. We'll send you this one page form once your application is accepted. With livestock certification a Feed Supplier Declaration is also required.
Easy-peasy, sign and mail back.
4. Arrange On-Farm Inspection All farms must arrange their own on-site inspection, which should take place within two growing season months of being accepted into the program, and then annually, at least once every 16 months. Inspections are done by volunteers for free, ideally by other CNG farmers. Inspection forms and guidelines are available online.
The inspection is ideally done by other CNG farmers. As I did not have anyone CNG Certified within an one hour drive I had the inspection done by our local Penn State Extension Agent.
5. Conduct an Inspection A true grassroots organization, CNG does have a work requirement. All participating farmers and beekeepers agree to conduct at least one inspection of another CNG farm or apiary annually. This requirement is waived if there is not another CNG farm or apiary within a 1 hour drive. Be pro-active and contact farms near you that need an inspection (nobody "at CNG" does it for you). To maintain the program's integrity, you may not "trade" inspections with the person who inspected your farm or apiary.
As I did not have anyone within an one hour drive I had this requirement waived. The one person I contacted on the border of this limit had already had an inspection done on their farm.
6. Record Keeping This is something that you should do in your own way. The observations you record today will help you plan tomorrow. We simply ask that you maintain records of the following items in one convenient folder for your inspector to quickly and easily access. Copies should not be sent to us.
Receipts and orders of the following: seed and transplant orders; any purchased soil amendment items (off farm compost, rock powders, pre-mixed Organic Fertilizers, etc.); and any purchased organically acceptable botanical and biological pesticides (Bt, Sulfur, insecticidal soap, etc.)
An updated copy of your application. This was emailed to you when it was accepted by us, or updated by you. It can also be printed from your online profile.
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.
Have a folder labeled "CNG" and throw everything (or copies of everything) in there.
The very best thing you can do is go to the Certified Naturally Grown website and poke around to get complete information.
I have found, through years of practice, that people garden in order to make something grow; to interact with nature; to share, to find sanctuary, to heal,
to honor the earth, to leave a mark. Through gardening, we feel whole
as we make our personal work of art upon our land.
- Julie Moir Messervy, The Inward Garden, 1995, p.19