If you sell directly to your customers, becoming Certified Naturally Grown may be a good decision for your market garden. 

CNG checklist

Trying to decide between Certified Naturally Grown and Certified Organic? Check out this article to help inform your decision.

What Does ‘Certified Naturally Grown’ Mean?

Being Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) means farmers do not use herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).

Certified Naturally Grown was designed to be a complement to National Organic Programs, like the USDA or Certified Organic in Canada.

CNG is tailored to direct-market farmers selling directly to their customers, as opposed to large scale agricultural operations.

Why Become Certified Naturally Grown?

Small-scale farmers often find the paperwork involved in the National Organic Programs to be cumbersome and not a very good fit for their market garden operation.

As well, National Organic programs cost as much as 5X more than the CNG certification, so to a small-scale farmer, the savings are significant.

Essentially, CNG allows farmers to get credit for their practices while offering accountability to their customers.

How Does CNG Differ From National Organic Programs?

CNG is a private non-profit organization that is NOT affiliated with any National Organic Program.

CNG relies on peer reviews in which inspections are carried out by other farmers. This model minimizes paperwork and keeps certification dues affordable.

CNG certification process is transparent and open to the public. Every CNG producer has a profile on the website which you can click on and see all of their inspections as well as their application info.

How To Apply For Certified Naturally Grown Certification

CNG uses produce standards based on the USDA National Organic Program standard.

Before you apply, it’s a good idea to review the produce standards, as well as the List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances to ensure your market garden practices are in compliance.

Once you are in compliance with the standards listed above and are ready to apply for CNG certification, the first step is to create an account

certified naturally grown application

Once you have created an account, you are able to apply for certification.

CNG application

Now, since I am not actually applying for CNG application at this point in time, I cannot go any further in the application process with you. 

However, what I imagine happens is they accept or come back to you with conditions to be met.

After your application is accepted, there are three things you need to do to maintain membership.

criteria for acceptance

1. Sign and return your Declaration.

Your signature on the declaration indicates that you understand and accept the terms of participating in the CNG program.

Your Declaration is posted online with your profile.

It is due within 1 month of your application being accepted.

2. Submit Membership Dues

It’s up to each member to determine the exact amount that is right for their farm. The recommended is amount is $200+.

CNG offers sustainer plans starting at $17/month to make it easier to pay the recommended amount in smaller monthly installments.

Dues must be paid with 1 month after your application is accepted.

3. Inspection

All farms must arrange an on-site inspection to take place within 2 growing season months of the date when your application is accepted. Inspections take place annually after that.

Work Requirements

All certified growers are required to conduct a peer review annually. The work requirement is waived if there is not another CNG producer within an hour’s drive who needs an inspection.

Certified Naturally Grown Flow Chart

Record Keeping

Ah, now what would market farming be without record-keeping and paperwork!?

Keeping records for CNG certification should not add extra paperwork to your already established office organization regime. 

However, there are three key pieces of information that CNG requires each year, so it is a good idea to keep these in a separate folder so they are easily accessible so you don’t have to go searching from file to file.

1. Receipts and Orders

  • Seed and transplant orders
  • Any purchased soil amendment items
  • Any purchased botanical and biological pesticides

2. Updated Copy of Your Application

This gets emailed to you when you are accepted or updated by you. 

3. Soil Test Results

Farmers who use chelated micronutrients to correct a soil deficiency must have soil tests from within the past 12 months that specifically note the deficiency.


The Certified Naturally Grown label is most useful for growers who market directly through CSA, farmer’s markets, and local businesses.

The application process is pretty straightforward with less paperwork to wade through than National Organic Programs.

As well, it is a more cost-effective certification option for small-scale farmers.

Is your market garden Certified Naturally Grown? Let us know your experience in the comments below.

Stay Local,

Kathy & Jon

your friendly neighbourhood growers


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