Mike with CSA boxes

Mike with CSA boxes

What it means to be Certified Naturally Grown

Mike Noreen, a 13-season veteran of the Mill City Farmers Market and owner of Burning River Farm, is no stranger to the question “Is this tomato organic?”

In 2006, Mike chose to certify his farm, now located 80 miles northeast of Minneapolis in Frederic, Wisconsin, as Naturally Grown rather than USDA Organic.

Like organic, Certified Naturally Grown farms do not use synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms and manage soil and water responsibly. Unlike organic, Certified Naturally Grown is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that relies on peer reviews rather than third-party organizations to inspect its farms. This system encourages farmer-to-farmer networks and reduces paper work and expenses, which was enough to convince Mike at Burning River Farm.

naturally grown with turnips

On his 15-acre farm, Mike manages insects with row covers, weeds with hand weeding and disease with crop rotation. He uses compost and cover crops to improve the health and fertility of the soil, growing produce you can feel good about.

Burning River Farm specializes in field-grown greens and salad mix as well as standard and heirloom varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, potatoes and more. In addition to farmers markets, Burning River Farm has a 200-member community supported agriculture share and several wholesale and restaurant accounts around the Twin Cities.

You can pick up the fresh produce you need for the recipe below from Mike and the rest of the Burning River crew 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Saturdays at the Mill City Farmers Market, 704 S. 2nd St., and 4 p.m.–8 p.m. Tuesdays at Mill City Night Market at The Commons, 425 Portland Ave. S.

Learn more at millcityfarmersmarket.org

big tomato with cracks

Grilled ratatouille toast

By market chef Nettie Colón

Serves 4


  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 red onion
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced or minced
  • Olive oil for tossing and drizzling
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parsley, thyme and basil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Crusty bread, baguette, etc.
  • Goat, feta or ricotta cheese


  • Preheat grill to high.
  • Prep the vegetables: Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2 to 1-inch-thick slices. Slice the bell pepper in half and take out the seeds. Cut the tomatoes in half. Slice the zucchini and summer squash lengthwise into 1/2- to 1-inch slices. Slice the red onion into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Peel the garlic cloves.
  • Brush the vegetables with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Place on a sheet pan in a single layer and head back out to the grill. Turn grill down to medium high heat. Place the vegetables on the grill to cook until just about al dente with nice grill marks. Try to not overcook as the vegetables will keep cooking even after being removed from the heat. Allow vegetables to cool to room temperature.
  • Once cooled place vegetables on a clean cutting board and rough chop away into bite size pieces. Taste, adjust salt, fold in herbs, and drizzle with a little splash of balsamic. You can serve right away or refrigerate until ready to use. If serving later on, make sure to pull from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Flavors will be brighter at a slightly warmer temperature.
  • When ready to serve, slice bread in half lengthwise and warm slightly in the oven if desired. Top bread with the ratatouille, cheese and more olive oil. Cut pieces of bread into toast-size pieces of your liking.