The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

Certified Naturally Grown Label Tailored for Direct-Market Farmers

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Mary Esch of the Associated Press writes about some organic farmers in the Northeast that are eschewing organic certification by the USDA:

Started by a group of organic farmers in New York’s mid-Hudson Valley as a backlash against federal takeover of the organic program in 2002, Certified Naturally Grown has expanded over the past decade to include more than 700 farms in 47 states, executive director Alice Varon said.
“Certified Naturally Grown is tailored for direct-market farmers producing food without any synthetic chemicals specifically for their local communities,” Varon said. “It’s a particular niche of the agricultural world. It’s not in direct competition with the national organic program.”
Many small farmers previously certified organic by an independent organization have declined to participate in the federal program. They voice a variety of objections: extensive record-keeping requirements; fees that can amount to 6 percent of a small farm’s gross sales; and philosophical objections to joining a monolithic government-run program that also certifies huge operations that ship produce across the country.
“We have noticed over time that more and more farmers — often, younger farmers — who appear to be following organic practices don’t bother to get certified,” said Jack Kittredge, co-owner of a certified organic farm in Barre, Mass., and editor of “The Natural Farmer,” journal of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. “My major concern is that sometimes, unless you’re certified you’re not even aware of some of the problems,” such as calling livestock organic even though the animals eat feed containing genetically modified crops.

Sponsored by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, members of The Farmers Pledge say there’s room for all the labels; some farms even boast several alternative labels in addition to USDA organic:

“The Farmer’s Pledge is a better program for direct-sales farmers like me, who find the national organic program too burdensome,” said Mark Dunau, who farms five acres in the Delaware County town of Hancock.
About 130 farmers in New York and Connecticut have signed The Farmers Pledge, a commitment to a broad set of farming principles that address labor issues, organic production practices, community values and marketing.
Farmers who participate in Certified Naturally Grown rely on peer inspection by other farmers to ensure they follow organic practices, such as avoiding synthetic pesticides and fertilizers and using cover crops and rotation for healthy soil. While critics say peer review rather than USDA-certified inspectors could lead to cutting corners, Varon said that’s unlikely.
“It’s a different mindset that people bring to Certified Naturally Grown,” Varon said. “They believe in farming in harmony with nature as an expression of their values. It’s not something they do to get a premium in the marketplace.”
Denison agrees. She and her husband operated a conventional farm in Maine before they bought the 164-acre farm in Schaghticoke, 20 miles northeast of Albany, in 2005. They switched to organic farming because they and their two daughters had developed illnesses they believed were caused by exposure to agricultural chemicals.
“We were one sick family,” Denison said. “We were close to 50 when we bought this farm, but we were ready to change course and make a commitment to Certified Naturally Grown.”
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Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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