SCHAGHTICOKE, N.Y. -- A grass-roots program started by organic farmers in New York's Hudson Valley as a backlash against federal takeover of the "certified organic" program in 2002 has expanded to include more than 700 farmers in 47 states.
Executive Director Alice Varon says Certified Naturally Grown is an alternative to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's national organic program. She says it's tailored for small farms that sell directly to customers at farm stands, farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture programs.
Participants must adhere to organic principles such as avoiding synthetic chemicals. Proponents say the program lets them promote their commitment to sustainable agriculture without the cost and extensive paperwork of the USDA program.
But certified organic farmers say alternative labels confuse consumers and dilute the strength of the organic movement.