What are the reasons farmers get CNG certified? Some farmers join for the the marketing advantages of being a part of a recognized national organization. Other farmers are drawn to opportunities to network with and get feedback from other like-minded farmers, and some want a way to highlight their values and production practices. Many consider CNG a good alternative or supplement to being certified organic. The benefits of CNG include marketing, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging to a national movement.
Is there a deadline to apply? We accept applications throughout the year. Be prepared to arrange your on-site inspection within two growing season months of submitting your application.
Can I certify some but not all of my crops? While most of our certified producers have their entire operation certified, there are some situations where a farmer hasn't managed to grow certain crops according to CNG standards (stone fruits or grapes are especially challenging in many areas). It is possible to exclude some crops from certification, and have other crops get CNG certified. We just ask that it be made clear which is which during marketing, and that everything is explained clearly on the farm's public profile on the CNG website.
What practices can I use to increase soil fertility? To manage fertility on their farm, CNG farmers use management practices like cover crops and crop rotations, and organic amendments such as compost, manure, fish emulsion, soybean meal, feather and bone meal, and unprocessed minerals. Synthetic fertilizers are not allowed.
What can I use to control weeds, crops pests, and plant diseases? CNG encourages mechanical and cultural methods as the first line of defense against weeds, pests, and diseases. When those methods don’t solve the issue, most botanical and biological controls, such as ladybugs, BT, neem, or kayolin clay, are also allowed. (Rotenone is a notable exception; though it is an unprocessed botanical, it has been linked to Parkinson’s Disease.) As a general rule, most OMRI-approved products meet CNG standards. No synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides are allowed.
What about potting mix? Is there anything I should look for? To meet CNG standards potting mix can’t contain synthetic ingredients such as chemical fertilizers or synthetic wetting agents. Commercial potting mixes frequently contain one or both of these, so it’s important to check the ingredient list carefully if you purchase potting mix. If you are able, making your own potting mix gives you more control over the ingredients.
Do I have to use Certified Organic seeds? Generally, CNG producers must use seed that is organically grown, whether CNG, Certified Organic, or uncertified whenever they are available. But, if a producer is unable to find the variety they need in organically grown form after checking with at least three suppliers, CNG allows an exception for a farmer to use conventionally grown seed, just as long as it is not chemically treated or genetically engineered. This same rule applies to seed potatoes, onion sets, and sweet potato slips.
What about transplants - do they need to be certified organic? Transplants must be grown without synthetic fertilizers, wetting agents, or pesticides, and with seeds that meet CNG standards. When purchasing transplants, sometimes it can be difficult to tell how transplants were grown. The best ways to ensure that transplants meet CNG requirements is growing them yourself if you are able, or communicating directly with the transplant grower about their practices. For perennials that were started conventionally, they can be considered fully CNG after 12 months under CNG management.
How big do my buffers need to be? It is important for CNG farmers to have an adequate buffer to protect their fields from potential sources of contamination. The appropriate size of the buffer depends on the context, including factors like prevailing wind patterns, the elevation and slope of the land, and what the neighboring land uses are. Typically, we look for a minimum distance of 20 feet to crops like a fertilized hayfield, field corn and soybeans, while a buffer of 50 feet is required for crops such as sweet corn. A buffer may need to be somewhat larger if for example the growing area is located downhill or downwind, or it may need to be quite a bit larger if you are located next to crops that are sprayed aerially.
Can I use treated wood in my operation? Treated wood isn't allowed for new construction where it will come into contact with the soil, though existing wood can be grandfathered in. If you're looking for alternatives, you might consider naturally rot-resistant wood, such as cedar, black locust, black walnut, or white oak; materials like concrete, plastic or steel; or wood-plastic composites, as long as they do not contain fungicides.
I make jams and salsas from my CNG produce. Can I use the CNG label on my products? The CNG label may be used on packaging only if the following two conditions are met:
(1) It states clearly on the label which ingredients are CNG certified (for example, "made with Certified Naturally Grown tomatoes" or "Ingredients: tomatoes*, onions, basil*, olive oil, salt, pepper *Certified Naturally Grown ingredients"), AND
(2) at least one of the two main ingredients is CNG (so for example, the label could not be used for a jar of salsa where only the garlic is CNG, but not the tomatoes)