Celebrate Earth Day the Organic Way

Organic farming has been growing by leaps and bounds, and that's terrific for farmers, consumers, and the planet. But as any farmer or rancher who has gone through the USDA's organic program knows, "Certified Organic" carries some upfront costs while the certification process is underway.
Even with more organic certification cost-share dollars now available through the farm bill, some smaller farmers and ranchers can't afford the fees. But there is an alternative market for these farmers and ranchers to consider. Wanting to make sure their customers know they follow strict growing practices, a group of farmers created a nonprofit alternative certification program called Certified Naturally Grown (CNG).

CNG is designed specifically for small-scale, direct-market farmers and ranchers using methods that match USDA Organic Standards. But unlike the USDA program, CNG's program requirements include no fees other than a donation of your choice and at least one inspection of a farm in your area. CNG likes to think of itself as a cooperative agreement among participating farmers to monitor and learn from one another.

So far, almost 500 farmers from 47 states have enrolled in the Certified Naturally Grown label. My CSA farmer here in Lyons, NE is among them. I am confident that his produce will be delicious, safe, and grown with the highest standards in mind. Look for CNG farmers at your local farmers market!

If you would like to learn more about Certified Naturally Grown, go to their website at http://www.naturallygrown.org.

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