Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) is a non-profit alternate farm assurance certification program created for small-scale organic farmers, and striving to strengthen the organic movement by preserving high organic standards and removing financial barriers that tend to exclude smaller farms that are selling locally and directly to their customers. The program is operated in the United States by a non-profit corporation, Certified Naturally Grown, Inc, based in Stone Ridge, New York. It was founded by Kate & Ron Khosla who operated a community supported farm in New Paltz, New York using the Community Supported Agriculture model. A United Kingdom sister organization, the Wholesome Food Association, promotes similar food production standards, but does not operate a farm assurance or certification program.
Certified Naturally Grown standards are based on the USDA National Organic Program standards. Farmers are not normally permitted to use the word “organic” to describe their products.
Certified Naturally Grown farmers are required to submit to an annual inspection. For organic producers, this is conducted by a USDA-accredited certifying agency and the producers typically pay fees associated with the inspection. Certified Naturally Grown farmers may be inspected by other CNG farmers, non-CNG farmers, extension agents, master gardeners and customers, with CNG farmers being ideal, and must also pay an annual fee. Inspection forms are posted on CNG website, and all farms are subject to random pesticide residue testing. Inspectors are encouraged to provide helpful feedback, and by inspecting nearby farms the program aims to foster a sense of community and sharing.
A nationally recognized and endorsed grassroots effort, CNG exists because of enormous volunteer efforts, running primarily on free-will donations from farmers and supporters.
The word organic is central to the certification (and organic food marketing) process, and this is also questioned by some. Where organic laws exist, producers cannot use the term legally without certification. To bypass this legal requirement for certification, various alternative certification approaches, using currently undefined terms like "authentic" and "natural", are emerging. In the US, motivated by the cost and legal requirements of certification (as of Oct. 2002), the private farmer-to-farmer association, Certified Naturally Grown, offers a "non-profit alternative eco-labelling program for small farms that grow using USDA Organic methods but are not a part of the USDA Certified Organic program."