rich/ January 16, 2008/ Beef, Farm, Food, World/

Certification of sustainable farm products is always certain to get conversations going among small farmers. There are a lot of certification schemes (federal organic, Naturally grown, Salmon safe, Food alliance, off the top of my head) out there, and each one may be a good fit for a particular farm’s business model.

We have never pursued certification; our business model stresses personal customer relationships, and forgoes retail and restaurant outlets. Thus, the customer always knows the farmer, and hopefully, feels comfortable asking whatever questions they like about our management (Seriously, everyone….don’t be shy. Ask the questions! ). But, there is definitely a place for certification programs…it’s the responsibility of the customer to know what they want, and how to get it, to ensure that the food they feed their family is of the quality that they desire.

Unfortunately, a rather heavy-handed entry by the federal government is looking to change that. The farmer-run label Certified Naturally Grown is in danger of being rendered null by federal action.

Read the plight of Sugar Mountain Farm, and if you’re suitably outraged, head over to the USDA site and ready the federal registry information and leave a comment.

A couple of things stand out as being a problem with the standard. Denying pig farmers the right to feed their hogs milk and milk products flies in the face of a thousand+ years of porcine husbandry, not to mention the pigs’ historical starring role as farm garbage disposals / recyclers. The favorite food of our pigs was the cull eggs from our laying operation (hard boiled, for protein stabilization purposes). That would not be Naturally Grown, under the standard.

Most odious to me, however, is the fact that there is no provision for the animals being outdoors in the standard. So, as long as they’re not eating eggs, they can stand in muck inside a barn all year, and be labelled Naturally Grown.