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Certified Naturally Grown Offers Alternative to USDA Organic

round certified naturally grown sealIn 2002, a federal law passed that only allows products to be labeled “organic” if they have gone through the USDA certification process, but not every farmer who uses organic practices has the certification. The process is time consuming and also comes with a thousand dollar fee, and some small farmers simply find that the USDA’s program is a bad fit for the scale of their operations.

However, Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) offers farmers and beekeepers a way to assure consumers about their practices. We are frequently warned that the word “natural” is a marketing term used in greenwashing, but the farmers who participate in this program are committed to healthy and sustainable agriculture. “The O-word is forbidden unless you get special permission to use it, so we’re the alternative way to describe what they do,” explains Alice Varon, the executive director of Certified Naturally Grown. “It can be a very convenient short-hand way of communicating about their growing practices.”

There are 800 farms and apiaries located in 47 states that have the grassroots certification. From a consumer’s perspective, produce that carries the Certified Naturally Grown seal is equivalent to that which carries the USDA certification. It’s grown without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, synthetic herbicides or fungicides. Certified Naturally Grown’s standards are based on internally recognized standards. “We’re not trying to define anything radically different,” says Varon.


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A Guide to Healthy Fall and Winter Squash

During the spring and summer, a lot of the produce at the farmers market is familiar: fresh tomatoes, bright yellow ears of sweet local corn and bell peppers so large they’re nearly unidentifiable.

When autumn rolls around, it’s not hard to spot familiar apples and pumpkins, but you might find yourself overwhelmed with the variety of squash that suddenly fills the produce stands.

To keep you from falling victim to any winter squash conundrums, we’ve pulled together a guide of some of the most common, and some of the lesser known, types of winter squash you might come across this season.


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CSA vs Farmers Market: Which is Right for You?

Years ago, people went to one market or general store to pick up all of the groceries and household items on their shopping list. Today, we have a variety of choices when it comes to purchasing food and beverages, from super stores and warehouse clubs to farmers markets and joining a CSA in your community.

CSAs and farmers markets are similar in that both offer local, homegrown produce to customers at prices that are often much cheaper than at the grocery store, however they can differ in price, convenience and quality depending on where your food was grown. Regardless of whether you shop at a market or join a CSA, you are receiving fresher, higher-quality produce because it hasn’t been treated with the chemicals or preservatives necessary to mass-distribute and ship it around the world.

What is a CSA?

CSA, or community-supported agriculture, is a program that lets you purchase “shares” from a farm in exchange for a weekly delivery of fruits, vegetables and other farm products like milk, eggs and dairy.


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Joining a CSA: Everything You Need to Know

CSA, or community-supported agriculture, has become a popular alternative way to buy fresh, seasonal food directly from your local farmers.

If you aren’t satisfied with the cost or quality of the produce at your local grocery store or can’t make it to a farmers market, joining a CSA program is a way to ensure that you have the fruits and vegetables you need to prepare healthy meals.

Typically, farmers will sell “shares” to the public, which may include fruits, vegetables or other types of farm products like milk or eggs. Consumers can either pick up or opt to have their shares delivered directly to their door and receive a weekly box or bag of seasonal produce.

“I’ve been participating in an individual CSA with my farmer in upstate NY for the past three years,” said Anne Maxfield, entrepreneur and founder of The Accidental Locavore. “It’s been a wonderful experience. Besides getting the freshest possible produce from a farm where sustainable farming is the standard, I’ve been exposed to all sorts of vegetables (and some fruit) that probably wouldn’t have made it into my shopping cart at the supermarket.”


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Budgeting For Better, Healthier Meals

By Ashley Watson

Budgeting for meals can be easier than you think if you remember that saving money will also encourage healthier eating habits. You already know that whole foods are more healthful than processed foods, but did you realize they were cheaper, as well?

Here are some tips to remember when creating your grocery budget and shopping lists:

Plan Your Meals

Planning your meals for the week may feel a little too ambitious, but it will save time and money in the end. Think about how long it takes to decide what you want to eat after a long day at work when you are already tired and hungry. You don’t have to sit down and write a detailed menu for every night of the week, but it’s a good idea to have a general sense of which meals you want to prepare.


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