Friday, March 29, 2013

Certified Naturally Grown?

I am terribly interested to hear what our customers would think about this type of certification vs. organic certification? I have found lately that the paperwork and fees for certified organic status has become quite overwhelming and exhaustive. Not to mention the cost. We spend more than $1000 in fees and that doesn't count my hours of paperwork completion which could easily triple that cost if counted. 

The other issue I have with organics is the increasing leniency of the standards to accommodate large corporate farms. And let's not even get into talking about the organic farms and corporations that helped to fund the Anti GMO Labeling campaign in California last year which defeated Bill 37 which would have required products containing GMO's to be labelled on grocery shelves.  

Enter Certified Naturally Grown...

I've been watching this Certification Body for the past 5 years or so. I have wanted to see how they would grow...or if they'd grow. Certified Naturally Grown has seen a steady march of organic devoted farmers join their ranks over the years. 

There's not much for me to write about this subject. The link above is the FAQ page and pretty much sums it up. My question to my customers and readers of this blog is "what do you think about this?"

While I remain completely devoted to organic principles and have an immensely anti-gmo attitude, I am quickly becoming disillusioned about the process that takes away significant resources to prove I am doing the right thing. I will never use synthetic inputs of any kind including pesticides, herbicides or petroleum based fertilizers and at the end of the day, whether certified organic or not, my customers have to choose to believe me or not. 

My father, John Fraser, was a farmer who used chemicals on his farm and who worked at the fertilizer plant in Ft. Saskatchewan. Considering he died of cancer at the age of 23 when I was 8 months old, I hope you'll believe how organic we really are. 

Decision pending customer feedback. 

19 comments:

  1. The biggest gripe that I've got about CNG is that they are not particularly transparent, and as far as I know they depend on the honesty of the folks who join them.

    Transparent: You cannot learn why a farm is no longer CNG, they won't answer questions about the dates that a farm was CNG, and they take the word of the people applying that they are following the standards at face value.

    I hit this stuff when I ran across a farm that was touting itself as CNG when I knew for a fact that they weren't following the guidelines. So I emailed and asked what dates farm xxx had been CNG, and they wouldn't answer that question, referring me to the farm. I looked at their submission standards after that.

    I don't know how to reconcile my desire for someone other than the applying farm to verify what they're saying as a consumer, and my opposite desire as a farmer to not have to deal with the overhead related to certification.

    If I were able to sell my products at a higher price to pay for the overhead it would make it less trouble, but with small farms there's often only a few people involved, and only so many hours in the day.

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  2. Yes, I hear you Bruce. It is a little more honesty based and less paperwork although you are still inspected annually with CNG. I think the same amount of cheating would occur from dishonest people no matter which route is taken. At the end of the day a consumer trusts a producer...or doesn't.

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  3. Here's a footnote. Why on earth am I the one spending hours on certification issues all the while conventional farmers spraying pesticides and littering the soil with petro-chemicals don't have to do any? Should be the other way around. Maybe one day.

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  4. I agree 100% about about a consumer either trusting their producer or not.
    CO is definitely more well-known than CNG. I think it would just take some extra education to ensure customers know that CNG is just as good or better certification for your farm, because of 1 -2 -3- etc.
    Since the cost of CNG is much smaller than CO maybe it's worth it to get both for this year and then talk to customers throughout the year about each certification?

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  5. Such a sticky issue, John. We trust you and your products implicitly, but for the new customer, it's all about education. If you were CNG, could you say:

    "Certified Naturally Grown From Non GMO Seed Using Organic Farming Practices" ?

    I understand that the "certified organic" bureaucratic red tape is expensive (in time and $). It hardly seems fair when conventional farmers are free to poison the food and the planet. Talk about backwards! Where is the incentive for farmers to transition to organic practices? Shouldn't our government be encouraging that movement? In my dreams...

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  6. I am looking at it as well, however not of our grain brokers recognizes this certification yet so no real premium in the grain world. However in your case this likely make sense as your grain is being directly marketed to consumers. Hope to see updates on this in the future :)

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    1. Yes, that is one concern for sure. It would be nice if there were a premium similar to organic. Perhaps there will be one day soon?

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  7. As a regular customer I will continue buying your products as long as you don't change your core values. Having said that, I don't really trust the organic label.

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    1. Yes, thanks Mike. That's what I figured would happen. You ultimately have to trust your food producer or not right? Certification of some kind helps though I'm sure.

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  8. There is a small, and hopefully growing, Face your Farmer movement, that encourages you to know where your food is coming from. Having followed you for a while, and purchased your products, I wouldn't have an issue with the change. The CO label is just another way to make people jump through hoops and to make it not worthwhile. Hard to say the effect it would have if you were looking to expand your market, but if you are just looking to make a living, and not a killing, then reputation and word of mouth would probably keep you busy enough and the lack of CO label would save you time and money.

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  9. Angela MitchellSunday, April 28, 2013

    As a very happy customer of yours, I would have no problem with the change. I will continue to buy your wheat and send my friends and family to you. Honestly, though, it has more to do with my experience with you, and your products. I trust both.

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  10. Thanks Angela...we will likely stay with the organic certification anyway, but it is nice to know where our customers stand.

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  11. I'll continue to make all my bread and breakfast cereal with GFG and don't care what label is on it. I would think if you're marketing face-to-face to customers it's not that hard to explain what this label means if they're not familiar. Of course I can't speak for the non-GFG addict.

    I agree about the irrationality of having to label the fact that you don't do it wrong. Some day I want to see a list of all chemicals, processes, modifications, and environmental externalities in the ingredients section of a label and assume that just seeing "wheat" means just that. A lot more people would buy "organic/natural" if they actually knew what was in their food and what their food was doing.

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    1. Thanks Joseph! Glad I have you 'hooked' lol

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  12. Organic / Natural is the way to go. You are putting these things in your body. Not to mention the impact some chemicals have on the environment over time. And especially the people that have to work with them. If its bad to work with it, why would you even want to eat it.

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  13. Yes, John, you would still get my business if you dropped the Certified organic label as I'm very happy with the Red Fife you sold me two Saturdays ago and as you said it really is all about trust in any case. I would be worried about any impact that changing labels might have on potentially new customers. That being said, it seems to me that CNG is just as good and slightly better than CO

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  14. Its hard to trust the organic label always, just a personal opinion. Although I have to trust it when buying. I'm not sure I 100% believe it. Thanks for the post. Its a interesting topic.

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  15. I'm way south of you so probably wouldn't buy from you directly so take my input in that light but that being said I don't trust an organic label (or really any label). If I can't grow it myself I want to visit the farm often so I can see how things are being grown for my own eyes. We often interact enough with the farm that we become friends with the growers and have long discussions on a multitude of food topics. Skip the certification process. It's just a bunch of red tape that adds to overhead.

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