By Suzannah Schneider, Communications Manager and Certification Coordinator
CNG peppers, tomatoes, flowers, lettuce, kale and more at Banner Greenhouses
Banner Greenhouses isn't just certified by Certified Naturally Grown, but they're a Business Ally of CNG, too!
This Nebo, North Carolina business is the definition of #CNGproud. They have over 19 acres in production, each bursting with vegetable, herb, and flower transplants. Banner Greenhouses may be in the business of tiny plant "plugs," but these millions of plugs make a big impact - especially when they're grown under Certified Naturally Grown standards that work in harmony with the nature.
We are proud to have such a strong connection with this enthusiastic Business Ally!
Jeff Mast (JM): Banner Greenhouses was started 25 years ago by a Christmas tree grower here in North Carolina. A few years later, the business was bought by a family in Kalamazoo, Michigan. That family still owns our business today, and has a long history in greenhouse work. I have been involved with the company for the last 15 years, and oversee the day-to-day business here at Banner Greenhouses.
We began to grow organically in the last seven to eight years. We started to play with different crops: tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, beets, and pac choi - to name a few. At the same time, we continue to grow conventional flowers.
Our current total production area is 19.5 acres, and we grow in both greenhouses and outdoor areas.
JM: We are committed to excellence in our products. That always comes first. Then, we have a sort of triangulation between the crops, the customer, and the company. It's a balancing act. In addition, we have become increasingly interested in and cognizant of the impact our work has on the environment. The environment informs everything we do.
CNG: How did you make the decision to support CNG as a Business Ally?
JM: It seemed like a simple, natural extension of our CNG certification. Plus, becoming a Business Ally helps us reach out to potential new customers.
CNG: How did you decided to add Certified Naturally Grown certification to your USDA Organic certification?
JM: We didn’t find out about CNG until this year, or we would’ve been CNG sooner! Becoming Certified Naturally Grown was a no-brainer for us. It is compatible with our existing production practices. CNG is also an excellent marketing tool. Plus, we feel the peer review system for inspections is very important. Quite frankly, it's another thing entirely to report about your practices to your peers. It's hard to fool a farmer who does the same things you do! To date, there have been no negatives to the process of being CNG. It’s been un-complicated, and adds another level of transparency and integrity to our products and company. We feel it's a win-win. We’re proud of our new alliance with CNG.
CNG: What are some exciting developments at Banner Greenhouses our CNG community can look forward to in the future?
JM: We now have hemp plugs, which is a brand new frontier for us! We're learning something new every day.
We are also expanding our grafted tomatoes to start shipping them nationally, and we've started growing watercress by vegetative reproduction.
CNG: If you had a magic agricultural wand, how would you use it to improve farm systems in America?
JM: That's a big question!
Local food grown under Certified Naturally Grown and organic standards is a movement, not a fad. I want folks to understand that. I want to increase knowledge sharing on the health benefits of vegetable-based diets, and organically-based diets. These two ideas will drive opportunity for farmers. I also want to improve issues around land access for farmers. Finally, I'd like to make sure that farmers hone their business sustainability skills, not just their sustainable farming skills. Farmers need to make sure they really know their market.
CNG: Is there anything else CNG growers should know?
JM: While we grow food to build a profit, we work to build our community by providing them access to young plants to start their farms. I am proud of how many meals are produced by our millions of plants, and how many people are affected by the food we grow in a healthy way.