Many farmers are tired of all the paperwork and farm inspections that are required to enable them to market milk, meat or crops from their farms under some sort of farm assurance scheme. The red tape associated with audits often seems too burdensome when weighed against the returns the producer receives.

Ever since I started to talk to farmers about Free Range Dairy and labelling milk and dairy products as free range, there have been constant calls for simplicity – “no more paperwork please”. So, how do we build integrity and assurance into our milk and dairy products without wrapping it in layer upon layer of red tape? For me, the ultimate certification of our milk would come from consumers having the opportunity to visit the farm and see for themselves how we care for the cows and manage the land, allowing them to really understand about their food.

I came across an article about some organic farmers in the USA who feel that mainstream organic certification is too costly for them and fails to deliver them the recognition they are seeking. So, they have created a new label called ‘Certified Naturally Grown’. Farmers marketing under this label are subject to inspection by their peers – other farmers ensuring they follow organic practices. Now, you might say this is open to all kinds of abuse and cover ups. But, a scheme like Certified Naturally Grown is founded upon a movement of like-minded farmers. There are now over 700 farmers who have signed up to Certified Naturally Grown standards, across 47 states. The executive director, Alice Varon explains “It’s a different mindset that people bring to Certified Naturally Grown. They believe in farming in harmony with nature as an expression of their values. It’s not something they do to get a premium in the marketplace”.

Varon’s explanation really strikes a chord with me. Free Range Dairy is founded upon exactly that same basis – farmers with a mindset that says cows belong in fields, who want to graze their cows and make the best possible use of pasture regardless of the whether it returns them a premium price or not. By starting from this point, we can build value and recognition for the way we farm, rather than rely upon exhaustive audits to ensure producers adhere to complex standards in some sort of confusing ‘tick box’ exercise.

Click here to read the full story about Certified Naturally Grown.


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