Including Community Stakeholders at Inspections

Moon Dog Alternative Organic Sustainable Inspection
Galveston's Own Farmers Market Manager Stephanie Ortiz inspects Moon Dog Farms in Santa Fe, TX

Community Stakeholders Invited to Observe Inspections

Peer inspections have always been at the heart of CNG's certification model. This will never change, but it's time for our approach to evolve. In particular, we’ll encourage members to include Community Observers in CNG inspections. While it's not required, we feel it's a valuable approach, with several benefits that are outlined below. 

Key benefits of including Community Observers at CNG Inspections:

For Farmers:

1) Increase appreciation for CNG farms and certification:
There are still many people who don't yet know what it means to be CNG. Including local leaders and customers helps people appreciate the robust process that takes place before someone can earn permission to use the CNG label.

2) Flexibility with the "No repeat inspectors" rule:

For members located in remote areas without other farmers nearby, it can be difficult to complete the annual inspection requirement without relying on the same inspector repeatedly. This situation bumps up against CNG's policy to require members to tap a variety of inspectors, and not go back to the same inspector year after year. Expecting a variety of inspectors helps ensure farmers get diverse perspectives, while protecting the integrity of the inspection process.

For farms in these situations, having a Community Observers at the inspection would both a) provide some flexibility to the restriction on repeatedly using the same inspector, and b) put a fresh set of eyes on the farming operation. Including the Observers enhances transparency and gives a greater sense of integrity to the process. Those who observe the inspection would be asked to sign the updated Inspection Summary Sheet with Stakeholder Signature Lines.

For Community Observers:

Community members, aka "Stakeholders", gain a better understanding of what it takes to run a farm according to CNG's high standards. They also get a behind-the-scenes view of a farm and connect with two local producers - both the inspector and the farm being inspected. 

S&H Farm Alternative Organic Group InspectionDendi Ranch farmers Diane and Dennis Mummert inspect S&H Farm (now retired) in Oxford, NC

What does the Community Observer do?

They are there to observe, not to advise. They may ask questions at times designated by the inspector, but their role is to observe and verify that a thorough inspection was completed. The entire inspection should be carried out with the observer present, able to see and hear what is being said and observed. At the end of the inspection, the Community Observer should sign the Inspection Summary Report at the bottom, in the space/s designated for Community Observers.

Who Counts as a Community Observer?

  • Farmer
  • Farmers market manager
  • Manager at a local independent grocer or co-op
  • Faith leader
  • Healthcare practitioner
  • Locavore
  • Lunchbox virtuoso
  • School crossing guard
  • Postmaster
  • Pitmaster
  • Elected official
  • Food policy council member
  • Reporter
  • Others!

Choices are not limited to this list.

The following people should not be used as a Community Observer (for the same reason they're not eligible to be inspectors):

  • Family members
  • Interns
  • Employees

How Many Observers?

No more than two.

Urban Community Garden Alternative Organic Certification InspectionKevin Prather of SCG Market Garden inspects Urban Roots Farm in Springfield, MO

Want to take part in an inspection as a Community Observer? Are you a farmer who wants to include Community Observers in your next inspection?
First, tell us a bit about you in a short survey. We'll do our best to find your "match."

Farmers: be sure to visit our Forms Page for the Inspection Worksheets corresponding to your certification type.

Produce farmers would use this new Summary Report with Stakeholder Signature Lines, for example.

Feel free to be in touch with any questions or feedback!
tel. 845 687 2058
e. observer@naturallygrown.org