Our 750+ members come from all walks of life. They are a mix of lifelong farmers, veterans, educators, cancer survivors, office workers, nurses, doctors, artisans, and beginning agriculturalists. For the many farmers and beekeepers of Certified Naturally Grown, the decision to renew their CNG certification year after year is rooted in their values, identity, and market needs.
Farming is one of the most demanding occupations, and maintaining a certification on top of everything else can be a challenge. What compels this diverse crew to do what it takes to stay certified year after year? Based on members' testimonials and feedback, we distilled three core reasons why our community sticks with CNG: Values, Relationships, and Marketing. Each is outlined below with accompanying testimonials.
And for fun, we generated this word cloud based on a bigger collection of members' testimonials.
Reflecting Farmers' Values
It feels good to be part of a selective organization that reflects your values and verifies your practices. Farmer Cliff Porter at Jarhead Farm in Toccoa, GA, says,
“I seek certification to highlight my commitment to promoting clean soil, clean water, and clean food, and to associate with a certification that stays true to the core values of organic farming.”
Karen and Raymond Wreford at Foggy Ridge Farm, in Ridgeland, Wisconsin, are lifelong farmers. They raise poultry on pasture, and love to share their holistic way of living with their community. Karen recalls,
“I grew up on a farm where everything was done naturally for four generations. Back then there was no certification to help us show this extra level of care taken with the food we sold. CNG helps us build trust with our customers and the community we serve.”
Building Rewarding Relationships
To maintain their certification, all Certified Naturally Grown producers undergo a peer-inspection of their farm annually, typically carried out by another CNG farmer. Our community-based model is attractive to many members right from the start, because it encourages the networking and peer support that’s appreciated by farmers of all levels of experience.
“I’ve learned so much not only from other people coming to see my farm, but me going to see theirs,” she said. “In my opinion, it’s the most genuine [inspection] option.”
Often these peer-review inspections result in long-lasting partnerships. Vanessa Massey of Durga Farms in Anahola, Hawaii, recalled that her Certified Naturally Grown inspector, of nearby One Song Farm, shared valuable insight and was very encouraging to them as first-year members. The farmers began sharing seed and trading services, empowering each other to improve and grow.
Tapping Marketing Benefits
Of course we’d be remiss not to mention the marketing benefits. Many join CNG because we’re more affordable and less demanding of farmers’ limited time and resources, compared to other certification programs.
“We don’t accept the notion that good quality produce should cost more, and we are determined to provide our superior product at reasonable prices,” said CNG farmer Anthony Davenport of G&C Organics in Hermanville, Mississippi.
Certified Naturally Grown enables community-based farmers to get certified at an affordable price-point, helping them to keep their farm products accessible to the folks in their local community.
The colorful Certified Naturally Grown logo and other marketing tools can be valuable selling-points for customers. Farmers see real improvements in their sales and profit after becoming certified. Elizabeth Lassiter of Lost Weekend Farms in Madison, Tennessee--a 5 acre CNG farm certified for both livestock and produce--recently shared her enthusiasm for CNG twist ties (photographed by her, above).
The twist ties are a easy way to keep marketing our way of growing long after the customer has left the farmers market!
We always love hearing why farmers join us. If you have a story to share, let us know!