Buying meats, produce and other products with the USDA Organic label is one way to ensure your food is free of toxins. There’s another option, too, that many consumers don’t know about: Certified Naturally Grown (CNG).
CNG, a nonprofit organization founded when the National Organic Program went into effect in 2002, is an independent program that works primarily on the honor system. Many of the 800 farmers and beekeepers who have earned this certification have been organic for years, but have found it too expensive or time-consuming to attain the organic certification — a common issue for small operations. Since they can no longer legally use the term “organic,” many have turned to “certified naturally grown” to demonstrate their commitment to healthy growing practices. This is different than just using the term “natural,” which is often slapped on products as a marketing ploy and has no oversight.
Like organic farms, CNG farms shun synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and GMO seeds. The CNG certification encourages farmers to work together to provide the best and healthiest possible fruits and vegetables, honey and meat. In their unique honor system, farmers inspect one another’s farms to ensure that the practices are being upheld. Volunteer or “neighboring farmer-inspectors” are familiar with problems specific to an area, which gives them an advantage over third-party inspectors. (To ensure honesty, farmers are not allowed to inspect the farms of someone who has inspected their farm.)
CNG is nationally recognized and has become successful because of the large numbers of health- and environmentally conscious consumers, as well as the farmers, ranchers and beekeepers who are determined to use healthier ways to grow food and raise livestock and bees. Participants understand the lasting effects of the chemicals on the land, animals and eventually humans, and adhere to a list of substances that they can and can’t use in the farming process.
Learn more about the Certified Naturally Grown certification here.