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Remote Inspections Policy
Generally speaking in-person inspections are preferred, and in many cases required. But at times the Remote Observed Inspection (ROI) is the best option, so long as both parties adhere to this policy and also follow the guidance provided on our Remote Inspection Checklists.
All Remote Observed Inspections are coordinated with CNG staff. They may only be conducted by Senior Inspectors and are carried out via video calls where the inspector is at home on their computer and the farmer receiving the inspection uses their cell phone camera to provide a live video feed, so they can show the inspector around the farm. It’s therefore essential that the farmer receiving the ROI has an adequate internet connection in their growing area in order to provide the video tour.
CNG Producers are automatically eligible to receive a Remote Observed Inspection if they:
- have been with CNG for at least two years, and
- have been inspected by at least two different people on two different occasions, and
- have strong enough internet connection to provide a video tour, and
- coordinate with CNG staff to schedule an ROI with a qualified Senior Inspector
Produce farms can only be inspected during their growing season.
Special Situations ~ Prior Approval Needed
Farmers who are not automatically eligible to receive an ROI may request special consideration if they have exhausted all other options, and when:
- They farm in a very remote location – ie. more than one hour from the nearest prospective inspector, and/or
- They have concerns about COVID-19 infection risk, AND
- They send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining why they should receive an exemption to be inspected remotely. Our determination will be based on inspection history, the particular reasons for the waiver, our ability to assist in finding an in-person reviewer, and other factors.
- Those who are automatically eligible to have their farm inspected remotely should indicate interest in receiving an ROI here and send a note to ROI@naturallygrown.org.
- Follow the Remote Inspection Checklists to help you prepare for and carry out the remote inspection.
In the spring of 2020, we trialed a couple dozen remote inspections, to determine whether they’d provide a reliable alternative to in-person inspections. These are inspections in which the farmer shows the inspector their farm and answers questions via videoconference, using their mobile phone. Our primary motivation was to overcome the restrictions on in-person meetings brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and enable farmers to complete their certification before the growing season got fully under way. These trials were surprisingly successful and well-received. We thoroughly debriefed with the participants to identify best practices and any cautionary notes. Based on our findings CNG will – under the specific conditions outlined above – recognize inspections conducted remotely via videoconference. The first remote inspection policy took effect June 20, 2020.
In the fall of 2021, we developed our model by including 3-8 observers to each remote inspections. These Remote Observed Inspections (ROI) had several benefits: increasing transparency in the inspection process, helping newer members “learn the ropes” on how to conduct a peer-review inspection, enabling new members to learn about another member’s farming practices, and creating new opportunities for members to meet one another.
In early 2022, we have raised the standards for who can conduct a remote inspection, and limited it to only Senior Inspectors (SIs) and those in training to become a SI. in addition, we began offering a training curriculum to our more experienced farmers interested in becoming SIs.
The original remote inspection policy was updated in May 2021 to remove the provision allowing new members to automatically be allowed to receive a remote inspection. Requesting approval for a remote inspection is discouraged for new members except under unusually extenuating circumstances. New members who nevertheless seek a remote inspection may get info on how to request a waiver here.
As of November 12, 2021, all remote inspections are required to be Remote Observed Inspections (ROIs).
As of February 24, 2022, ROIs may only be conducted by Senior Remote Inspectors and those in training to become SRIs.
This policy will be periodically updated.
Updated 7/9/20, 5/10/21, 11/12/21, 2/24/22