May 142017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

Are you ready for some great news? Your Maine State Grange Website hit a new record in May – in terms of visits to the site, the best day ever (since October 2010) was May 6, 2017, when there were 257 site visits! This record day also means that as of this writing, May 2017 is the month with the highest daily average of site visits – 114 per day. Naturally, I could resist a quick look at what might have caused this. (My experience suggests that data often raises more questions than it answers.) So I took a look at which pages/posts were the most popular in the last thirty days. In descending order:

  1. Program Books and Information Page (forms, books, etc. organized by function)
  2. Our History (a short history of the Grange)
  3. 2017 Directory of Granges (a recently published directory/list of active Granges in Maine)
  4. Update on LD 725 and LD 835 (information provided by the Ag Education Committee regarding bills under consideration)
  5. Our Officers (a “who’s who” list of state officers)
  6. Joining the Grange (includes a link to a membership brochure and application)
  7. Bangor Daily News Article About Exciting Granges (article headline: Maine Granges Are Making a Comeback!)
  8. About (a general page with links to other pages)
  9. I’m seeking… (a page where people can post requests for information about Granges and Grangers)
  10. Conferences (a list of state and regional Grange conferences and meetings)

Since the best day record was set the same day the Bangor Daily News Article was posted, there might be a correlation. The tempting conclusion is that folks are hungry for good news about the Grange. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that other highly visited pages and posts are reference pages with officer, membership, and Grange location information.

How do they find it? Well, the data suggests that most of our “referrals” are coming from search engines. In other words, people are searching for information using Google and other search engines and the Maine State Grange website comes up in the results.

While it’s important to stay focused, one undeniable conclusion we can draw from this is that we attract people to the Maine State Grange Website by making information readily available. This is one of the reasons I’ve started the “Resources for Grangers” posts—obviously, those resources are not just for Grangers. They are also for people who should become Grangers!

I’ve recently become interested in a communication phenomena called the “echo effect.” An echo chamber is “a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system.” In short, repeated messages sometimes take on a life of their own and get reinforced by nature of the fact they are heard often. Another term we can apply is “tunnel vision.” We become so subconsciously focused on something we are hearing constantly we only see what’s at the end of the tunnel.

That’s one reason I believe we need to stop analyzing and discussing why getting members is hard. I do not deny it is challenging. But I also know that the more we talk about how hard it is, the more firmly we will believe it can’t be done.

On May 6, 2017, at least 257 people were interested in the Grange: our programs, our beliefs, our halls, and our events. Did we give them enough information to at least maintain their interest?

After the Bangor Daily News article, one person emailed me and said that she and her husband plan to join the Grange when they retire. What do you think of that? I know several Grangers I told replied, “How old are they? Will I live long enough to see it?” I wish more people had just said, “Wow! That’s great!”

Apr 202017
 

We’ve made some minor updates and changes to the ODD Directory (Officers, Directors, and Deputies) and uploaded it to the website! Please download and print some copies for yourself and your members: ODD-Directory-04-17.

Also, note that we’ve added a new section to the “Program Books and Information Page” for the soon to be officially announced Agricultural Education Committee. There are already a few resources listed under this heading!

Happy Grange Month! If your Grange did something special, send us a report for featuring on the website! Photos are great–just attach them to an email to the webmaster. (Smaller file sizes are really helpful. If you are using a photo program that allows you reduce resolution and file size, please consider doing so before sending!)

Communication Consideration:

Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.

Heinrich Heine

Apr 152017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

During National Grange Master Betsy Huber’s visit, it was my distinct honor to facilitate the “town hall” discussion during the Piscataquis Pomona Meeting. There were nearly a dozen Granges represented and over thirty Grangers and guests. The conversations were spirited and encouraging throughout the entire evening starting with our supper. This was a rare opportunity for Grangers at all levels of the Order to communicate: National, State, Pomona, and local.

When the evening ended, one of the comments made was how helpful it was for so many different Granges to talk about their accomplishments and challenges. “We thought we were the only ones who…” While not all challenges were resolved, a sense of reassurance developed, in part because if we all have similar challenges, the odds of overcoming them increases. Chances are, someone solved that problem or challenge you are having. This became obvious as Granges reported their successes. The meeting truly was one of sharing with an eye towards solving problems and growing our Granges.

I later found myself thinking we had perhaps witnessed a meeting the way Pomona meetings are meant to be. While surely Pomona meetings were social events in the early days, I suspect those meetings including a lot of discussion—both formal and informal—on topics ranging from the best time to plant to what is working in your Grange.

While I’m admittedly biased by my position as communication director, I think the purpose of every meeting is communication in some way, shape, or form. A little thought and structure should go into why we are meeting and what we are communicating. Let me share two examples.

The Pomona Meeting includes a roll call of Granges that often means a brief report from those Granges attending. Many times these reports begin, “We are meeting regularly…” which I suppose is an accomplishment. (In some cases, it’s “We are trying to meet regularly…”) Why not make an effort to find at least one exciting thing about your Grange to report? Or, for that matter, why not report on a challenge your Grange is facing and ask your fellow Grangers for help and ideas? One of the points of Pomona Grange is communication and sharing resources. We should structure our meetings to do just that.

My second example is committee reports during meetings. If we see an important purpose of meetings as communication, we should be sad when it’s announced, “Nothing to report.” Yes, the original purpose of committee reports was to share what the committee is doing—but if it’s doing nothing, there still could something to report. A couple of sentences regarding what is happening in the world we live in will at least suggest we aren’t totally disconnected and out of business! Even a brief reminder of something important could qualify as a report.

I’ve attended Grange meetings where it seems like the purpose of the meeting is to get it over as quickly as possible! I’m not suggesting we turn meetings into long, drawn out affairs. I am suggesting that the purpose of every Grange meeting is not simply to have a meeting. When attendance at our meetings is poor, we might allow ourselves to wonder why. If the only reason we’re meeting is because it’s scheduled, that’s not much incentive for people to make the effort.

When I am responsible for leading a meeting, I always create an agenda with time estimates and outcomes. If at all possible, I share it with participants so we share the responsibility for getting “the labors of the day” completed in a timely and effective manner. Why not do the same for a Grange meeting? Let’s communicate with purpose and energy!

Mar 162017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

“I’m bored.” We were lined up waiting for the dismissal announcement when my fifth-grade friend made the announcement. I replied, “I’m happy” and added, “So let’s do some math facts to pass the time.” She did not groan so I quickly asked, “What’s 492 times 33?” She disappeared back into the classroom. (I should probably explain that “math facts” are basic calculations that a student can do almost automatically—one example is what we used to call the “times tables.” My question was actually a math problem, not a math fact.)

I wasn’t too surprised when she returned quickly with a sheet of paper showing the process she used and the answer. She was smiling while I checked her work. It was correct and I could point out that she’d used quite a few math facts to solve the problem.

She’s going to help me demonstrate an important point about communication. What we often think are statements are really questions. When she said that she was bored, I took it to mean she wondered how I felt and, more importantly, whether I could relieve her boredom.

Too often, communication tends away from exchanging information to verbal fencing, particularly if what we’re hearing doesn’t set well or fall in line with our beliefs. We could have done battle if I’d asked her, “How can you be bored?” I’m also reminded of that horrible parent warning, “I’ll give you something to cry about.” The bored version could have been, “Oh yeah? If you think you’re bored now, wait until tomorrow when we study…”

We don’t often think enough about what we hope to accomplish when we communicate.  In conversation, we often tend instead to decide if we agree with what’s being said. Many times, we don’t fully hear what’s being said because we start preparing our response. I’ll confess that when I’m busy I find I more often misunderstand what’s being said simply because I’m mentally hurrying.

Years ago, I taught an “Interpersonal Skills Program” designed by Xerox Learning Systems. One of the concepts taught hard early on was “when your initial reaction is to reject or ignore, clarify and confirm.” The goal of clarifying and confirming to make certain you understand what the other person is saying and why he or she is saying it. In practice, students often found that there was less disagreement than it seemed originally.

I will confess that I took a shortcut with my fifth-grade friend at school. She said “I’m bored,” but I decided she meant “I need something to do.” In an ideal world, I would have asked some questions and clarified what she was saying. Once it became clear that she needed something to do, that’s an easy problem to solve. I can’t fix bored. I can find something for her to do.

Please do not let an important fact escape you—communication is also about focus. I could have sympathized with my bored friend. “Me too, I hate just standing around…” Commiseration can be rewarding because we feel connection and get empathy. But it doesn’t change things.

I’ve had several incidents recently where people have explained at great length how busy they are and apologized for not getting something done. I find it hard not to point out that they could have done it in the time they spent explaining (often more than once) why they hadn’t.

“Let’s do…” does change things. Notice in my example, I didn’t try to change this young lady’s personality or her view of the world. I just found something relatively simple we could do. Think about that the next time you find yourself talking about how nobody comes to Grange anymore and people don’t have time to… Are we really saying (let’s clarify and confirm) we just haven’t found the energy and ideas for some things to do that might change what happens?

 

Let’s make some news, take some photos of it, and share it!”

Feb 142017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

It’s time for a “potpourri” column—a collection of communication-related thoughts and updates. Some of these have been published on the website as “Communication Bullets” and may sound familiar to website subscribers and visitors.

I believe one of the responsibilities of the Communications Department (of one) is to explore, discover, and transmit resources that will help our Granges and Grangers. In keeping with that, I’ve created a “Resources for Grangers” theme for this year.

Resources can come in many forms, but will fall into two categories. The first will be somewhat general in nature. The second will be more specific about the “business” of the Grange.

As an example of the latter, I’ve recently researched and posted some potential sources of insurance for Grange Halls in response to several questions and requests for help finding coverage. The options are certainly limited, but there are some possibilities. (The information is also included in this Bulletin.) We continue to post information about conferences, etc. as it is received. Remember that the Communications Department maintains an ODD (Officers, Directors, and Deputies) directory of contact information that is available for download and you can find copies of recent Bulletins on the site.

At least year’s state session, a resolution was passed directing Maine State Grange to develop a strategy for policy, education, and resources for small community-based farms and agriculture in general. I’ve been watching for and reposting articles that would seem to support that. Recent examples include information on invasive plants and the Browntail Moth threat.

But I’m not limiting this to agriculture. With thanks to the VA, we are now posting a Veterans’ Department Wish List of opportunities and needs. The list is updated monthly and includes facilities throughout the state.

I’d like to extend a special thank-you to our MSG Historian, Stanley Howe and his committee. The “In Search of…” feature has brought a number of inquiries regarding closed Granges and membership. Stan and his committee are always quick to respond and generous with knowledge and information. The “In Search of…” feature also recently made possible a connection between some volunteers and Rick Watson, Master of Fairview Grange. Working together Fairview Grange, the volunteers, and the community raised about $4,000 for a young family facing a serious medical issue for their soon to be born child. New bonds and friendships were also formed.

From a practical perspective, the Communications Department is not a department of one—it includes every Granger (and some non-Grangers!) who are committed to communication and the development of our organization. When you discover information that you believe would be of interest to other Grangers, share it! My job is to facilitate that process and make the channels of communication available and effective. If you have or need information, please let me know.

On a slightly personal note, I’m honored to be the “featured speaker,” at Bangor Grange’s Community Connection on March 28, 2017. The topic will be “Finding Dead Rainbows—where you stand makes a difference.” Bangor Grange Master Brenda Gammon describes Community Connections as an ongoing part of the Grange’s efforts to “provide information and resources and a way for our community’s citizens to connect with each other and those resources.” It’s an interesting idea—if your Grange is looking for a new idea and way to make a difference in your community, contact Brenda and ask her about it. Even better, come to the program!

Let’s make some news, take some photos of it, and share it!”

Feb 012017
 

by Walter Boomsma, Communications Director

I’m pleased to announce that your communications department of one is working on more resources for Granges and Grangers. We’ve recently added a Roster Order Form for copies of the 2017 Roster. Please note there are a limited number of copies available and they are only available to Grangers for Grange business.

I’ve heard some folks say they are having trouble finding insurance for their Grange Halls. I have been researching this and finding agencies and companies who may be able to help and will be posting a list soon! You can help with this. Contact the agency currently insuring your Grange Hall and ask if they would like a listing on the Maine State Grange Website. If so, have them (or you can do it for them) send me basic information  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)  : company/agency name, person to contact, phone number, email address and website address if they have one. Several folks have already been very helpful with this… thank you!

One of the more frequent inquiries we receive through the website comes from folks interested in purchasing Grange Halls. We are very close to being able to post a list! Special thanks to State Master Rick for helping assemble this information.

Lastly, I am working towards updating the Grange Directory posted to the site (currently 2014) based on the most recent Roster Information.  This is a “limited” directory–it only includes Grange Name, Address, Pomona, and meeting schedule. If your information is either missing from or incorrect in the Roster, this is your “one-time” opportunity to get it corrected in this directory which, unlike the Roster, is made available to the public. (This directory is often used by people seeking a Grange in their area either to attend or rent a Grange Hall.)

Do you have suggestions for additional resources? Let me know!  (webmasteratmainestategrangedotorg)   Speaking of that, please note that the “midmaine” email address listed for me in the roster is not a working email address. Also, I am having a long-standing issue getting email delivered to those who have TWC (Time Warner Cable) email addresses. In Maine, this includes addresses ending “roadrunner.com” and “maine.rr.com.” TWC has not been at all cooperative in resolving this, but I haven’t given up. If you do not get a reply to an email you send from those addresses, it’s not for lack of trying on my part.

Jan 142017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

One of my ongoing goals as MSG Communications Director goes beyond keeping members informed to providing you with resources—both internal (Grange “stuff”) and external (resources from other organizations and individuals that may have value to Grangers.

Grange month is coming! For several years now, National Grange has not mailed information packets but has rather made material available on the National Grange website. This year, I have added that Grange month material to our Maine State Grange website to make it readily available. It really is time to start planning your Grange Month celebration!

Officers and directors are certainly encouraged to submit information and documents we can make accessible. Visit the “Program Books and Information” section of the site and check out what’s there! You’ll be amazed!

In terms of “external” information, I am always on the prowl for articles, information, websites, etc. that may hold interest and have value for our members and site visitors. Recent examples of this include a wish list from the VA with community service opportunities in Maine and a link to a free fifty-page book regarding personal finance (lecturer’s program? Family health and hearing material?).

This was an extremely busy month for our “In search of…” feature. Not only have there been several requests for Grange information ranging from cookbooks to history, we’ve also had a number of requests for information regarding using Grange Halls for personal and community events. One that is particularly rewarding involved some volunteers who wanted to sponsor a benefit for a young family whose unborn child has a severe medical issue. In short, we were able to facilitate an exciting connection to Fairview Grange #342 that is resulting in an informal partnership an opportunity for the folks at Fairview to support the family and the community. The Communications Department even got involved, helping with promotion.

Shared events like this are just plain awesome. Not only do they increase the likelihood of success, they also introduce new people to the Grange, increase the visibility of the Grange in the community, and demonstrate what the Grange is all about. Just make sure your hall looks good and your Bulletin Board is current—filled with lots of positive information about your Grange, your members, and your needs.

While we were on vacation this past summer, we attended a concert in a rather large church. Their foyer area was truly amazing—it communicated a sense of welcome and demonstrated opportunities and needs. They freely used small, topic-specific bulletin boards, clipboards with sign-up sheets and small tables with brochures and flyers. There was one corner with several comfortable chairs where one could sit and review material. For someone interested in communication, it was close to nirvana! Admittedly, they had a large area to work with, but the ideas can certainly be adapted.

Find someone in your Grange and offer him or her an opportunity to create at least one “communications area” and see what he or she can come up with! When it’s finished, take a photo and send it! If you’re not feeling particularly creative, you could start with a welcome mat at the front door!


Grange Month Clarification

If you find Grange Month information a bit confusing at first, the idea is to base the celebration on the National Grange Program called “I’m a doer.” The Grange Month material appears to follow a line of,  “When the do-ers are gone…”  Unfortunately, (in my opinion) that sounds like a prediction unless you read the details explaining that Grange Month celebrates “do-ers.” This could make a great link to the community citizen award many Granges present during Grange Month. Your headline for a press release might be “Local Grange Honors a Do-er…

Dec 222016
 

By Walter Boomsma, MSG Communications Director

Trisha Smith is a Home Horticulture Aide for the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Piscataquis County. One of her duties is to publish the Central Maine Gardening E-Newsletter. She recently contacted me noting, “One of the sections we’d like to include is a list of organizations and clubs that may interest gardeners in Piscataquis, Penobscot, and Somerset counties… What is the best way to direct folks to a Grange nearby?”

Since listing Grange contact information is currently not possible using the MSG website, Trish and I have agreed to a general statement with an invitation to visit the site and contact me if someone is looking for a local Grange in their area. (I am always willing to help an individual or organization locate a Grange, but it is done on a “case by case” basis.) I also suggested that we invite local Granges in those three counties to submit contact information for the list they will publish in the newsletter. If you’d like to be listed as “an organization of interest to gardeners” send your listing to Trisha Smith trishadotsmith1atmainedotedu  (trishadotsmith1atmainedotedu)  . Here’s an example of how you might word your listing:

Valley Grange is located at 172 Guilford Center Road in Guilford. For additional information about meeting times and programs, contact Jim Annis (564-0820) or Walter Boomsma (343-1842 or grangeatboomsmaonlinedotcom  (grangeatboomsmaonlinedotcom)  ). 

The key is to keep your listing complete but also brief… do not include complex meeting schedules, but you might add a short sentence about why your Grange might be of interest to gardeners and ag-minded folks. If you’d like help crafting your listing, let me know!

Dec 202016
 

By Kim Stefanick
National Grange Intern

Grange Radio has returned to the web-airwaves with a face-lift.

In November, just before the National Convention, the station re-launched with new voices and music. A greater diversity of music and programming is expected after the new year.

Found online at www.grangeradio.org, the station Grangers now have a place where they can go to listen to family and farmer-friendly music while staying up to date on the latest Grange news and events. The station also has an active Facebook page at www. facebook.com/GrangeRadio.

The goal of the station is not only to serve the Grange community but to be used as a way to reach potential members and diversify the Grange’s audience, National Grange Communications Director Amanda Leigh Brozana said.

Brozana, who has been tasked with heading the project said, “It’s important for us to make sure we are communicating with folks outside our membership. We cannot expect to draw new members unless they know we are lively and fun. We hope Grange Radio becomes a touch point in their lives.”

During the holiday season, you’ll hear the first episodes of a weekly hour of fun music and talk by Connecticut State Grange’s Bob Charbonneau. The show will continue in the new year. Charbonneau also produced a short radio play, Santa’s New Suit that will air twice a day starting Dec. 15 through Christmas. Be sure to tune in!

You can add your voice to Grange Radio by recording a short “bumper” or becoming a contributor. To learn more, go to the website.


This article is reprinted from the December Issue of The Patrons Chain.

Dec 132016
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

Just recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with two young ladies. When I say “young” that means one was a sixth grader, the other a fourth grader. Even though this was not school-related, I tend to believe we who are adults should always be “teaching” children, if only through good role modeling. So I stay alert for opportunities.

They were having a conversation in the back seat that began with an announcement that an adult friend of theirs was pregnant. For reasons I certainly do not understand, the younger asked no one in particular, “When the Mom is pregnant, can the Dad drink wine?”

I tried to look smaller and hoped that I would not be drawn into the conversation. Yes, I am a teacher. I also certainly qualify as an SME (Subject Matter Expert) on this topic in a relative sense when compared to most kids. And I was reasonably sure a simple “yes” answer was not going to be the end of the conversation.

Worry wasn’t necessary, the sixth grader accepted the challenge, explaining that while the Mom shouldn’t drink, it would be okay for the Dad to do so. The fourth grader accepted this, explaining that she understood the Mom shouldn’t drink since the baby was in her stomach.

The sixth grader gently corrected this, noting that she’d learned in health class that “the baby is actually in the nest mothers have in their bodies.”

I drove on, both relieved and feeling a bit smarter having learned a new vocabulary term associated with reproduction. I now have a better explanation of the process and successfully escaped from dealing with the topic.

That sixth grader was, in the truest sense, the “ideal adviser” because she was “one or two steps above the learner.” This is an important concept we learn in teaching and communication. Sometimes the best teacher and communicator is not the most knowledgeable. It’s easy to overwhelm the learner with too much information. The learner loses interest and gains very little knowledge.

The conversation between the girls continued briefly as they explored the topic at a level that met their youthful needs. In fairy tale terms, we all “lived happily ever after.”

Sometimes knowing the answer just isn’t that important–or necessary! There are times when we need to bite our tongues and sit on our hands so it’s truly about learning and not just about teaching.

A lesson for Grangers might be simply this: perhaps the best person to explain Grange Membership (or procedure or ritual) to a new member is your newer member. They will, hopefully, be your most enthusiastic and—more importantly—will understand exactly how much that newest person needs and wants to understand.

When we get asked a question, instead of thinking about how much we know, we would be better served to consider what our questioner needs to know. There’s an old story about a kid who comes home from school and asks his father, “Where did I come from?” After a lengthy and somewhat uncomfortable conversation about the fundamental facts of life, the father asks what triggered the conversation. The now fully educated child replies, “We have a new kid at school who said that he’s from Chicago, so I wondered where I am from…”

So where do Grangers come from?

Let’s make some news, take some photos of it, and share it!”