Solace Farm is excited to announce that we have finally gotten our gardens and hoophouse Certified Naturally Grown!  If you're not familiar with this, it is similar to certified organic, but with a few important changes.  Mainly, it is operated by the members, not an overseeing agency, particularly not a government one.  Each member has to get inspected by another member/non-member farmer/extension agent, etc. yearly, and also perform an inspection every year.  Another impportant difference for us is that the fees are nothing like the thousands required for a "traditional" organic certification - CNG asks for your donation, $200 is recommended, but at least $100.  Lastly, the record-keeping is much reduced - I'm guessing that most people are unaware (as was I until recently) that organic certification requires intensive, detailed tracking of everything on the farm.  That is just not my style, I would lose a large portion of working time to data input - not what I'm looking for!   

Overall, Certified Naturally Grown is very similar to certified organic, but more farmer-friendly.  I am required to use organic seeds unless I can't find what I want - and then still only non-GMO and untreated seeds, use only acceptably natural inputs - soil amendments, insect and disease remedies, etc.  In the inspection worksheet, they are also looking for how the farmer addresses issues like erosion, crop rotation, energy and water conservation (we aced that one, off-grid and 20,000+ gallons of rainwater collection!), pollinator/beneficial insect habitat, other wildlife habitat, buffer zones, etc.  

Overall, I think we're going to enjoy being a part of this certification program.  I don't think we're going to actually realize any financial gain from being CNG, but I believe it is a good way for us to quantify and label our growing practices here at Solace Farm.  I  also hope it will help me be more aware of both what I am doing and should be doing, and give us specific goals to be working towards or continuing to maintain as we manage the gardens.  

There are also livestock and bee CNG categories, but the livestock is difficult because we'd have to have very specific hay - virtually impossible to get around here.  We may do the bee certification before long, but not until we have enough to sell.  

Speaking of the bees, earlier this summer we had a lucky occurrence.  We were showing some new WWOOFers around the orchard, and as we walked away I noticed that one of the seaberry shrubs looked dark in the middle.  It was a bee swarm!  Caleb discovered that we did indeed have an extra hive in the basement, so he put it up and managed to get most of the bees into it.  We've checked a couple of times since, and they are still there, so we now have 5 hives.  Hopefully they have had a good summer, and we'll get a decent harvest next spring.  


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