Did You Know? The Difference Between Certified Naturally Grown vs. Organic

As many of you probably know, I’m interested in providing natural treatments and care for myself and the dogs so I often look for organic designated items when shopping. There are some fruits I won’t buy unless they are organic, like raspberries or strawberries. But did you know there are differences in the difference between certified naturally grown versus organic? 

Recently I toured the “Certified Naturally “Grown” Homestead Organics hemp farm, the local producer of Black Dog Botanical CBD oil, which will be offered on our Sam’s K9 Kreations page (despite the ongoing challenges in getting the PayPal plugin to work properly…grr…but I digress). As Gabe, owner of Homestead and Black Dog Botanicals showed me their CNG operation and greenhouse, he explained the differences between certified naturally grown versus organic of which I was unaware.

So what is Certified Naturally Grown (CNG)? It’s a grassroots-led alternative for small-scale farmers who distribute products at local venues like farmers markets, community supported agriculture subscriptions (known as CSA’s), restaurants and grocery stores with local produce initiatives as well as shoppers trying to reduce their environmental impact by choosing locally grown products compared with the USDA’s National Organic Program. With CNG, farmers audit one another for sustainable practices.  Certified Naturally Grown is neither costly nor overburdened with bureaucracy which permits small farmers to devote their energies to farming, rather than to proving themselves to strangers via a mountain of forms. Using a “participatory guarantee system” model where inspections are typically carried out by other farmers, ensures a sharing and community approach to CNG standards. [Source: Naturallygrown.org]

Though a Certified Naturally Grown farm leaves less of a paper trail than a Certified Organic one, all CNG records are openly available online. Growers clearly state their growing practices and attest they have abided by all of the CNG regulations (which are essentially the same as certified organic).  So what’s the difference? Besides price and time, the auditors are other farmers and are allowed offer advice as they walk the fields, talk to the grower, and evaluate the farm (USDA verifiers, on the other hand, are not allowed to offer any suggestions during an audit). To avoid conflict of interest problems, you are not allowed to audit the farmer who audited you. In addition, every year, CNG randomly selects farms for pesticide residue testing, at no cost to the farmer. [Source: Organic Authority]

Organic farming works in harmony with nature rather than against it. This involves using a variety of techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural environment or the people who live and work in it (i.e. recycled and composted crop wastes and animal manures, proper soil cultivation at the right time, crop rotation, use of green manures and legumes, mulching, controlling pests, diseases and weeds without chemicals and careful use of water resources).

Many large farms seek the USDA organic certification status as a savvy and ethical business move. However, it’s not enough to simply claim “organic.” You must make sure that your product carries the certified USDA Organic Seal.

The USDA National Organic Standard Seal not only shows your ongoing commitment to a healthy planet but assures consumers and buyers that your product meets stringent USDA organic certification requirements making your products more marketable and profitable. The process for obtaining an organic certificate is not an easy one and requires plowing through loads of bureaucracy. The designation doesn’t expire unless you voluntary surrender your certification or if your certification is suspended or revoked by a certifying agent, the State Organic Program’s governing State official, or the Administrator for violation of the Act or NOP regulations. USDA organic certification is an ongoing process that requires dedication. Getting certified means making a long-term commitment to the organic process and may take years in advance in order to become certified organic ad you must comply years in advance in some cases. National Organic Program standards state that organic crops must be grown on land that has been free from prohibited pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers for three years preceding growth. Becoming certified organic means considering your entire operational procedure, not just the end product. [Source: https://www.thebalancesmb.com]

When shopping at a farmer’s market, grocery store or online, the question to ask is not “Is your product organic?” but “Are you certified naturally grown?” There is a difference that definitely means you’re supporting local farmers which is better for the earth overall.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

35 thoughts on “Did You Know? The Difference Between Certified Naturally Grown vs. Organic

  1. Certified natural, organic, are just words now, ever since the definitions were changed by the government in response to a request by several agribusiness giants and food chains. Shopping is no longer a pleasure for me as I grow 85% of my own food.

  2. Hmmm. I’ve never even seen that label yet. Will have to look for it. So if I understand correctly, it’s still organic but under a different oversight?? (a good thing) I know USDA allows “organic” sprays on food that are high in neurotoxins. Grrrrr. Have talked to the growers in person about it.

    1. Sort of. It’s peer reviewed by local farmers rather than by any bureaucrats. Having toured the farm personally and seen the operation, I know there were no ‘organic’ neurotoxins. Thanks for swinging by the Ranch, we 💜 visitors.

  3. That’s great to know!! There’s a small grocery store not far from us that offers locally-grown veggies, but I’m not sure if they’re CNG or not. I’ll have to look more closely the next time I’m there. My view of the USDA (and other government agencies) is rather cynical these days, so unless I (or someone I know) know the owners of a certified organic farm, I tend to be wary of legitimacy of the label.

    1. USDA’s bureaucracy for obtaining organic certification is costly and very time consuming for small farmers. It may be worthwhile if you’re some sort of corporate farm, but for small family operations, probably not so much. I liked the idea of peer review and peer cooperation with CNG. Those who farm nearby land have a must better idea of what works well when you’re working with nature and without chemicals than some USDA dude.

  4. Very good stuff here … thanks for posting it. Although people see the terms in stores, I imagine the majority don’t have a clue about the meaning.

  5. This was so interesting!!! I had never heard of Certified Naturally Grown. We garden organically, but I had already heard that getting certified organic was a huge process (and we’re way too small to make it worth it). And now I know we couldn’t anyway, because we’ve only been here two years. With the government not being involved, it has to be a much simpler process! 🙂

    1. I wasn’t familiar with the concept either. Organic items can be shipped all over the country whereas CNG has a far smaller environmental footprint and uses the exact same principles. I like the peer review/sharing cooperation aspect to it too.

    1. Thanks, Michael. It may be a hair splitting difference, but I found it fascinating in the farm’s operations. I’m really looking forward to a partnership with Gabe and his product.

Feel free to bark your thoughts...but no growling please.

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