Sustainability. Certification. First and Second party claims. Third party audit. These are all becoming very important within society in many formats and industries. It is quite true of their importance in the food sector. It is very important within the Shepherd’s Grain framework and we are working very hard to recapture that important concept for our company’s future. Food Alliance provided Shepherd’s Grain a 3rd party independent audit of our production system for our first 10 years. They closed their doors abruptly this past January. Our certification is still valid through this crop year (2013) since the production system producing this wheat was certified prior to their ceasing to exist. We are in the process of securing a new certification program that will allow us to continue with a very transparent and truthful claim of sustainability throughout our production practices prior to the next harvest in 2014. An additional concern is how the words in the beginning of this newsletter are being misused either intentionally or through miss-understanding. Sustainability does lack a national standard as of this writing and does still have some variance in its’ individuals definition. My real concern is the certification independence of those standards. A first party claim comes from the producer stating he or she does certain practices, of which only represents “their word”. A second party claim is simply an accumulation of first party claims and generally comes from someone with a vested interest in what the first party is claiming. The only true “certification” can come from an independent 3rd party audit of the first party’s claim, a certification that the ultimate consumer of the product can trust. It is with this statement that we suggest all SG customers query any one claiming to be “certified sustainable” to determine who is conducting the 3rd party audit and that they are credible for any and all products claiming the sustainability moniker. On a lighter note, I just learned from one of our “friends of SG” that the phrase “keep your nose to the grindstone” may have come from the milling industry. Knowing that flour flavor can be “cooked” out through the milling of grain if the “stones”, or in our case rollers, are set too tight was a revelation to this author. The good news is the professional stewards of the mill rollers at ADM Spokane maintain a very conscious effort to “keep their noses to the rollers” to maintain only high quality flour leaves their doors. As always, thank you for your support of Shepherd’s Grain and our family of producers.