Building on our Strengths to Grow the Movement

Posted on August 20, 2017

Broadfork_Veggies.pngBuilding a more sustainable food system requires a variety of approaches, from training new farmers, to teaching people how to cook real food, to advocating policy changes, to offering meaningful certification programs.

No one organization can do it all. We need each other, and to value one another’s contributions.

For 15 years, CNG has served a special niche in this movement. Just like in ecosystems, we depend on others to play different roles. So, for example, CNG offers peer-review certification to farmers producing food for their local communities. We don’t serve big agribusiness operations supplying huge corporate accounts. So it’s important that there are alternatives to CNG, like the National Organic Program, for larger-scale growers. The other programs also help signal - and incentivize - sustainable food production.

As we think about what’s needed to strengthen the good food movement, we’re looking closely at what CNG brings that’s distinct and valuable. Certification is important. But we understand it’s only a part of what’s needed, and we feel like we are well-positioned to expand our work – particularly in the area of building local food systems.

As we map out the next phase of CNG’s work, we would like to get your input. What qualities do you most value about CNG? And what enhanced role do you think CNG could play in the sustainable food movement, beyond offering certifications?

For those who might be new to CNG, below is a quick primer.    

Please share a few words, and any comments you’d like to make, in the survey here.

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Peer-to-Peer
CNG certification relies on a peer-review model, where inspection are typically carried out by fellow farmers and other stakeholders in the community. This approach supports learning and networking, and benefits from the cultivation of direct relationships that help ensure the program's integrity.

Participatory
Our certification model is called a Participatory Guarantee System and is encouraged by IFOAM - Organics International as a valuable way to encourage and support the growth of organic agriculture among small-scale farmers.

Local
Our certification is tailored for farmers and beekeepers producing food for their local communities.

Pride and Ownership
Because CNG is a participatory program, which succeeds because of the efforts and integrity of those who join, CNG certified farmers tend to have a much greater degree of ownership and pride compared to other certifications. 

Giving Visibility to Ecological Commitments
We offer affordable marketing assistance with our design services, as well as logo stickers, signs, and twist ties that help farmers highlight their certification and their commitment to ecological farming.

Farmer-centered
CNG is responsive to farmers. It's easy to reach CNG staff and get personalized support and swift answers.

Nimble
We can introduce new programs more quickly than what's possible with a federally-regulated program. In 2008, responding to many beekeepers' concerns about colony collapse disorder, we began developing natural beekeeping standards that would support honeybee health. By 2010 we were ready to launch our apiary certification program. Our Handbook for Natural Beekeeping, Third Edition was just printed, and includes the latest updates to our standards. Similarly, we launched the first aquaponics certification program last year in response to producers' interest.  

Affordable
The costs and paperwork requirements of CNG certification are kept as low as possible, to maximize accessibility for qualified farms.

Complementary
CNG complements the organic program by encouraging and including in the organic movement many direct-market farmers who might otherwise opt not to obtain certification. We fill in where other programs have difficulty reaching important constituencies.  

Independent
CNG is a private grassroots non-profit organization that’s primarily funded by farmers and their supporters.

Inclusive
CNG builds the sustainable agriculture movement by including many farmers who aren't interested in organic certification, for a variety of reasons, but are proud and fully committed to farming without synthetic chemicals or GMOs. We're all better off when farmers have a variety of supports and rewards for adopting ecological practices.

Tell us what you value!
Please let us know what characteristics of CNG you most value in this very short survey. Thank you!  

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Photo credit: Broadfork Farm, Moseley, VA. Certified Naturally Grown since 2012.