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The Greenwash Brigade

"Certified Naturally Grown." Really?

Janne K. Flisrand Jul 18, 2010

Yesterday, I visited Minneapolis’ Mill City Farmers Market. As I wandered around, I noticed Burning River Farm had “certified naturally grown” on its signs, and my greenwash radar beeped.

Natural is one of those vague, meaningless words, always thrown around by greenwashing companies.

So, I asked if they had certified organic products, and they gave an honest, “No.” I bought my carrots elsewhere.

Since part of the market’s mission is “to promote local, sustainable and organic agriculture, increasing economic opportunities for farmers, urban youth, small businesses and food artisans” I stopped at the market’s info booth to ask about their requirements for farms to claim certification.

Thankfully, the market director was able to answer my questions. She said that to use the word “certified” vendors had to provide the market with proof of certification. After a moment she mentioned that one of the farms was “Certified Natural Grown.” I perked up — and asked whether that was an actual certification. She said yes, we talked a little more about what it was, and when I got home I did more research.

I found this Wikipedia article. Evidently, the creators wanted to have a nonprofit alternative to the USDA’s organic standards that was accessible to small farmers. They do have certification requirements, including inspections.

I’m pleasantly surprised, and won’t avoid Burning River Farm’s produce next time around. I’m also a astounded that Certified Natural Grown picked the word “natural” despite all the education groups like this Brigade and TerraChoice have done to inform consumers that “natural” isn’t a useful word for consumers.

Have we, the educators, gone wrong? Or can Certified Natural Grown make “natural” meaningful – and communicate that to consumers?

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