A special Saturdays in the Garden report…
Adrienne Gibson is very particular about choosing only organic seeds for her gardens at A Place of the Heart Farm in East Tennessee. “I’m personally committed to organic,” Gibson told us. Yet, her two and half acre farm run by family and friends is not anywhere near the scale of many USDA Organic certified farms. “We are a small farm and it would be too much of our income just to be certified organic,” explained Gibson.
Instead, A Place of the Heart gets its third party certification from the nonprofit Certified Naturally Grown program. It’s less cost and paperwork, but still follows organic standards. Healthy soil building, crop rotations and pest management practices allow for growing without the toxic, persistent pesticides used on conventional farms. Customers connect directly by visiting the farm north of Knoxville, buying CSA shares for community supported agriculture, or buying fresh heirloom tomatoes, lettuces and more at the farmers’ market. Local chefs like Drew McDonald of The Plaid Apron restaurant have a personal connection to farmers like Gibson, calling her weekly to see what freshly picked harvest she has to sell.
This weekend is the culmination of CNG’s Back to the Roots Restaurant Week that we first told you about here on the Flour Sack Mama blog. It’s a celebration of local food grown with sustainable methods, better for people and the environment! “CNG is organizing Back to the Roots restaurant week in select cities to help connect local restaurants to the family farms at the heart of the good food movement. We strongly believe that such collaboration and support is necessary to help the good food movement grow,” said CNG Director Alice Varon. “We will feature restaurants that source ingredients from local farms. The chefs at participating restaurants understand that serving local ingredients has two big benefits – it makes their dishes shine and strengthens the area’s farming community. During Back to the Roots Restaurant Week, these chefs will extend their support for farmers by contributing a portion of their sales to support the work of Certified Naturally Grown (CNG).”
Gibson’s son, Zach Budd, serves as Assistant Manager of the farm that had just finished up its heirloom potato harvest when we visited. They still had fields filled with kale, leeks coexisting with wildflowers, savory herbs and a waning crop of tomatoes.
“Certified Naturally Grown provides a much-needed complement to the National Organic program. While the NOP is an important program that primarily serves medium and large-scale agricultural operations, CNG is tailored for direct-market farms selling in their local communities. These farms often find the NOP’s heavier paperwork requirements are not a good fit for their small-scale operations. CNG enables these farms to get credit for their practices while showing some accountability to their customers. Some CNG farmers become certified organic after a few years with CNG, and we think that’s just super.”