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Growing Practices


Certified Organic

Farms that are Certified Organic conform to the standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program. “Overall, organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.” Produce must be grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, sewer sludge, ionizing radiation, or GMO seeds. Naturally derived fertilizers, sprays, and supplements must be approved by the Organic Materials Research Institute (OMRI). Land must be managed organically for three years before receiving certification. Livestock and poultry must be fed 100% organic feed, be given access to the outdoors all year, and never be given growth hormones or antibiotics. Only producers who have gone through the application process and pass their annual inspection can legally call their products “Organic.”


Certified Naturally Grown

Certified Naturally Grown is a grassroots certification that is based on the standards of the USDA National Organic Program. Like USDA Organic, CNG does not allow synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or GMOs. Many small-scale farmers chose CNG because it involves less paperwork and lower certification dues. “CNG is tailored for direct-market farmers producing food for their local communities. CNG enables them to get credit for their practices while offering accountability to their customers.” CNG is a peer-to-peer based certification, meaning that inspections are done by other farmers, which encourages farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing and strengthens local farming networks.



Farmers whose products are listed as “organically-grown” have committed themselves to following organic standards (no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or GMOs), but have not sought outside certification. Some growers do not seek certification because of the bureaucratic process involved (lots of record keeping, paperwork, and fees). Other growers oppose the governmental regulation tied to the certification process. Some are in the three-year transition process and cannot list their products as “Organic” yet.

This is a self-reported designation and does not involve outside verification.



Chemical-free farming is a commitment to farming without the use of artificial chemicals.

This is a self-reported designation and does not involve a binding definition or outside verification.



“Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition.” Biodynamic agriculture is based on the principles set forth by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. Biodynamic farmers use preparations made from minerals, manures, and herbs to bring balance and harmony to their land. Demeter International is the certifying agency for biodynamics. To become Demeter certified, a farmer must follow all USDA organic standards, as well as use biodynamic preparations, leave some of their farm wild, and integrate both crops and livestock into their operation.



This is a self-reported designation that does not have a specific definition or certification. Farmers that are “low-spray” try to use alternative methods to fight pests and disease before resorting to chemical sprays.

Low-spray generally only refers to pesticide use, and does not cover the use of fertilizers.



Integrated Pest Management is an approach that combines natural and chemical control of disease and pests. It encourages the monitoring of pests life cycles and their interaction with the environment in order to use the least damaging and disruptive intervention. “Pesticides are used only after monitoring indicates they are needed according to established guidelines…Pest control materials are selected and applied in a manner that minimizes risks to human health, beneficial and nontarget organisms, and the environment.”

IPM does not prohibit the use of artificial or chemical fertilizers.




Free Range and Cage-Free(Chicken, Eggs)

Free-range/cage-free poultry is not kept in cages. Birds are given access to an outdoor space.

This designation does not dictate what kind of feed the animals eat or whether they receive antibiotics.


Pasture-Raised (Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb, Eggs)

Animals live outside and graze on fresh pasture when weather permits.

Chicken and Pork also receive supplemental grain (corn, soy, barley, and other small grain) in addition to their foraging.

Beef and Lamb are given dried forage (hay) in winter and may also receive supplemental grain.



100% Grass-Fed animals receive only fresh pasture and dry forage (hay, not grain) for their entire lives.

Some beef and lamb are marketed as “grass-fed” but not “100% grass-fed” or “grass-finished”. These animals would graze on pasture for most of their lives, but be fed supplemental grain at the end of their lives in order to fatten them before slaughter. 



Animals do not receive Genetically Modified corn or soy products in their feed.



“Natural” and “Naturally Raised” do not have specific definitions or regulations. Often it refers to animals raised without antibiotics or hormones. It does not specifically prohibit the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides or GMO feed. Check with each producer about what “natural” means to them.


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