US: Naturally Grown: An alternative label to organic

Started by a group of organic farmers in New York's mid-Hudson Valley as a backlash against federal takeover of the organic program in 2002, Certified Naturally Grown has expanded over the past decade to include more than 700 farms in 47 states, Executive Director Alice Varon said.

"Certified Naturally Grown is tailored for direct-market farmers producing food without any synthetic chemicals specifically for their local communities," Varon said. "It's a particular niche of the agricultural world. It's not in direct competition with the national organic program."

Many small farmers previously certified organic by an independent organization have declined to participate in the federal program.

They voice a variety of objections: extensive record-keeping requirements; fees that can amount to 6 percent of a small farm's gross sales; and philosophical objections to joining a monolithic government-run program that also certifies huge operations that ship produce across the country.

"We have noticed over time that more and more farmers - often, younger farmers - who appear to be following organic practices don't bother to get certified," said Jack Kittredge, co-owner of a certified organic farm in Barre, MA, and editor of The Natural Farmer, the journal of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

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