Jun 172017
 

Webmaster’s note: This was “stolen” from Heather Retberg’s Facebook Page! 

At 10 am on Friday, Governor LePage signed LD 725 An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems.

The State of Maine has officially recognized food sovereignty.

Let us celebrate. This is a good day for our small farms, for our rural communities, for our town meetings, and democracy from the bottom up!

Congratulations to all of you who have worked so hard, so long and so steadfastly to bring this day to light.

Special thanks to Senator Jackson for sponsoring the bill and co-sponsors: Senators Langley and Miramant, and Representatives Dunphy and Martin.

A lion’s roar of thanks to Representative Craig Hickman for his fierce, principled tenacity, for his expert navigation and shepherding of LD 725, and for his unrelenting force that just wouldn’t give up.

Thank-you.

Jun 162017
 

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By Walter Boomsma

It recently became my sad privilege (notice I did not say “duty”) to serve once again as the chaplain in a Grange Burial Service. Bill Bemis, master of Garland Grange and Piscataquis Pomona, and I actually make a pretty good team. We’ve had far more practice than we’d like and rehearsals are no longer necessary. Bill always remembers the ribbons and flowers and other than a few quick exchanges before we start, things seem to proceed smoothly At this most recent, the funeral director thanked us profusely for so serving. Since several of our services have been with him, he’s part of the team as well.

Many of the traditions surrounding death and burial are shifting and in some cases being forgotten. We can debate whether or not this is a good thing, but my experience has been that most people find many of the “old” practices comforting and respectful.

The Grange Burial Service can, of course, be found in the Subordinate Grange Manual. There is no need for memorization—even ministers and other professionals who perform services frequently tend to use their manuals—if only for support during what is surely a difficult time when it can be easy to lose one’s place and thoughts. We are driven by a desire to support the family and friends. That, above all, determines what is correct.

There are, by the way, some significant differences between the service found in older manuals when compared to the “new” manual issued in 2013. In all honestly, I greatly prefer the older version for several reasons.

The 2013 version is significantly shorter than the previous. While burials should be relatively brief, the brevity of the 2013 version is achieved by omitting much. I suspect the 2013 version would, even at a slow pace, only last several minutes! More importantly, the 2013 version seems to omit or shorten many of the “lessons” offered in the older version—lessons that offer important comfort and reflection.

Another difference is that the 2013 version omits the hymns and singing—and that is supported by generally accepted practice. I cannot remember the last time I was at burial service of any type where attendees were asked to sing. When conducting the Grange service, I will often recite the words to the suggested songs as poetry.

The most important considerations are the family’s preferences and what the acting Chaplain and Master are comfortable with. Both manuals make it clear the service is optional. Given the fluidity in today’s practices, there is some room for “customizing.” While I do not think it is appropriate to conduct long eulogies as part of a burial service, I will offer a few brief comments or a pleasant memory of the deceased to ensure that the service is delivered in a way that is truly about him or her.

To that point, many people (Grangers included) are not aware or will forget during times of trouble that there is such a thing as a Grange Burial Service. The Subordinate Grange Manual also includes a “Grange Service for Private Home or Funeral Home.” There is certainly no requirement that these be conducted for a deceased Granger, those who remain would perhaps like to know that the Grange can support and help. There is a requirement for draping the charter, also included in the Subordinate Grange Manual. It is entirely appropriate to remind our brothers and sisters of these services and other support the Grange may provide such as hosting family and friends after a service.

This column is certainly not mean to be morbid—it is offered as a reminder that our traditions demonstrate how there is a Grange way of life (and in this case, death). While traditions change and society develops, the Grange remains relevant and viable.

I would challenge chaplains to fully explore your duties and opportunities. If you are re-elected or newly elected this month, listen carefully to the charge you are given during installation “…to be faithful to your calling… may the spiritual seed you shall sow fall on good soil, and bring forth an hundredfold. Cast thy bread upon the waters, and thou shalt gather it after many days…”

In the alternate installation, chaplains are instructed more specifically, “When it becomes necessary, you will conduct a memorial service to honor members who have gone on before us. Your loving touch will add to the ceremony…”

The chaplain should be assisted by every member as we labor together to support each other in times of sadness and in times of joy.  We should bring a “loving touch” to all our work together. When we conduct the “altar circle” during the installation of new members, the master promises, “…we pledge to you our friendship… a pure friendship, enduring through life, to shield you from harm…” That’s a great way of life.

 


Any degree or ritual quotations are from the forty-sixth edition of the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual. The views and opinions expressed in “Exploring Traditions” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine and policy of the Grange.

Jun 162017
 

A mug WBBy Walter Boomsma,
Communications Director

When I sit down to write this column every month, I usually scan back over a previous couple of months to review what I’ve written and posted. (Hint: if you go to the website and type “Communications” in the search box in the upper right corner, you can do the same!) This time I was a bit surprised at the number of posts my search produced. There have been a lot of “Communication Bullets” over the past couple of months.

The reason for those is there’s been a lot happening that deserves communicating! For example, in May we set a record for the number of visitors to our website in one day. That’s exciting stuff! There’s also been a lot of “stuff” added to the site and I wanted to make sure you knew about those resources. As information arrives, I also update the Conferences Page with information and, when I have it, conference packages, applications, etc. When we set the visitor record, I was not surprised to discover that the “Program Books and Information” page is the most visited. Grangers are finding and using the information there!

My goal for the communications department of one has always been to serve the Subordinate and Pomona Granges by communicating information that’s interesting and useful. I was going to include “exciting,” but let’s face it—not everything we do is exciting and fun. (We can, however, try to make it so.)

A recent change that IS exciting was a long time coming. We’ve always given you the opportunity to subscribe to the website—you could get an email when posts are made. Unfortunately, we lost control of that subscription service and, while it still works, we don’t know who our subscribers are and can’t control the process. So I have been looking for a process that is “user-friendly,” compliant with email regulations, and allowed us to do more than the old system. Subscriptions to the site are now being handled through a service provided by MailChimp. And, by the way, the service is costing the Grange nothing.

Initial reports are that it’s working great! There has been some confusion regarding the new versus old. One of the steps I’ve taken to help is to prepare a one-page, illustrated “how to” sheet (available on the website, of course!). If you were subscribed to the “old” system you may want to review it, because you’ll want to “unsubscribe” from the old system so you don’t get two emails every day. (One from the old system and one from the new system.) Because I do not have access to the old system, I cannot do this for you nor can I shut it down.

If you are tempted to just stay on the old system, there are at least two reasons you may not want to do that:

  1. I truly have no idea how long the old system will be maintained and continue to work.
  2. The new system is far more manageable and will allow us some future opportunities—including the fact that I will be able to help those having difficulty with their subscription.

Let me reassure you that you still have control of what happens and can unsubscribe at any time. Also, our privacy policy prevents us from sharing, selling, or renting your information.

If you are currently not subscribed, simply go to the website and click the “Sign me up” link. It’s a two-step process—don’t forget the second step! After you’ve filled out the short form and submitted, you’ll receive an email verifying that you want to subscribe. You’ll need to click the link in that email. (This is for your protection—it means someone else can’t sign you up for email you don’t want!)

As with anything related to the website, bulletin, or communications in general, if you have any questions, ideas, or concerns, I want to hear from you!

May 302017
 

By Rick Grotton,
Master, Maine State Grange

If there is any Grange out there that needs staves, implement cases, ballet boxes, older manuals, cloths, and sashes, etc. there are plenty of items available at Headquarters. Please let me know what you need and when to arrange to pick up.  June 24, 2017 is our yard sale so that would be a good time for pick up.

May 282017
 

Just about a year ago, we posted a request for information:

Tim Wilson is seeking information and a photo of his great-great-grandfather, James A. Grover (1848-1932) who was for many years a member of Riverview Grange in Lisbon Falls.

Good things come slow… and with thanks to the Lisbon Historical and Mert Ricker, a photo has been found! But Tim is “lost” — the email address for him does not seem to be working. Tim, if you see this, please contact us… and, if anyone knows Tim, please let him know! (Understand that we’re dealing with a fairly common name–there’s a Granger named Tim Wilson in Bangor–this is not him!

Check the “In Search of…” Page to view all searches.

May 152017
 

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By Walter Boomsma

 

The Order of Patrons of Husbandry is the only association whose teachings accompany its members in their daily pursuits. They form part of the farmer’s life. They do not call him from his work to put his mind upon any other subject, but furnish recreation in his daily duties, and by cheerful instruction, lighten and elevate his labor.

We will be hearing those words again soon during the installation of officers. What a wonderful reminder of an important aspect of our Order—it is meant to be part of our daily lives—not something reserved for meetings at the Grange Hall.

I suspect one of the reasons our founders included this observation in the installation ceremony was to remind leaders of the importance of not interfering with members’ daily labor but to furnish recreation and by cheerful instruction, lighten and elevate his daily labor.

While we tend to think of labor as “work,” at least one dictionary defines it as “productive activity.” I think it’s interesting how our view of that has changed over the years. I’m currently reading a book about a farmer who labored in the mid-late 1800’s. I’m impressed with all the things he did, but never get the sense he considered himself busy. He worked with the seasons, doing the things that need to be done. The author, his grandson, explains his grandfather’s explanation often was, “it’s just something I do.” His work was his life and his life was his work. I think farmers today would agree it’s still not an “eight to five” job.

Small wonder the Grange is such a great organization for farmers. Being a Grange member is not about attending a meeting or two every month. Much like farming, being a Granger is an around-the-clock activity. Or at least it’s meant to be! The Master’s entire opening comments emphasize that Grange is not supposed to interfere with our lives; it is truly meant to enhance and enrich our lives. And the task of those who lead the Order is to make sure that happens.

One of the reasons our Order is about to celebrate 150 years of existence is, I believe, the fact that it remains relevant and does enhance and enrich members’ lives. When the Bangor Daily News Reporter asked me what my hope was for the Grange of the future, I replied: “that every Grange finds a way to be a viable, energetic resource for their community, however that community is defined.” When we look at those Granges experiencing membership growth they have done that, but their growth and success is not solely about the programs they are doing.

In that same interview, I suggested that growing Granges always have two common qualities: good leadership and lots of passion. In growing Granges, members aren’t putting their lives on hold to “go to Grange” because Grange is part of their life. Their membership does furnish recreation, but it also means that by cheerful instruction (which includes networking) they are finding their labor (lives) lightened and elevated.

Simple things are not always easy. The installing Master also observes, “Thus our Order binds us together in fraternity…” I think it’s important to note that he or she does not say, “Our fraternity binds us together in our Order…” What really binds us together is shared vision and purpose. In the absence of that, there is no reason to trudge to the Grange Hall for a meeting—particularly on a cold or rainy night.

While it may be tempting to think life was simpler 150 years ago, let’s remember that those early Grangers didn’t hop in a car and turn the key while checking in with others in the family on a smartphone. Consider the effort it must have taken—chores had to completed, the horse and wagon readied… but that effort was done without complaint. Going to Grange was as much a part of their lives as doing those chores. They came from far and wide because it mattered.


Any degree or ritual quotations are from the forty-sixth edition of the 2013 Subordinate Grange Manual. The views and opinions expressed in “Exploring Traditions” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official doctrine and policy of the Grange.

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!”

May 122017
 

 

May 062017
 

By Walter Boomsma,
MSG Communications Director

Check out this feature article in the Bangor Daily News Homestead Supplement! Granges featured in the article include Halcyon in Blue Hill, Fairview in Smithfield, and Valley in Guilford. I might be a little biased, but I think it is one of the most positive and well-documented articles we’ve seen recently. How cool is it to see a headline announcing that Maine Granges are making a comeback?

Grangers in the BDN coverage area may want to pick up a copy of the weekend edition, including the Homestead Edition. You can also read the entire article online. Feel free to add a comment to the article, letting folks know what your Grange is doing–several Grangers have already done that! (Make sure to mention the name of your Grange and community!)

 

Apr 182017
 

Heather Retberg,
Ag Ed Committee Director

Click to view larger image.

Even though you haven’t heard much about us yet, I’d thought I’d offer some examples of the kind of programming Granges can offer to promote Agricultural Education. This upcoming event might be of interest to share outside of our home community as an example of what our newly formed committee might be interested in at the state level. This event makes me so happy to host as we aren’t even organizing it, but a few of the local garden clubs reached out to us (I think through one of our member’s “cross-pollinating”) to see if we’d like to be involved.  YES!

We’re also having our last farmer-homesteader potluck of the season on the April 22 and will have a short talk about our newly built CoolBot that we’ve constructed to add another component to our community food security network and augment our shared-use kitchen space with food storage!!

All you need to create a DIY walk-in cooler is a well-insulated room, a CoolBot, and a standard window or mini-split air conditioner with digital controls. The CoolBot works with several major brands of air conditioners. One source of additional information is StoreItCold.com.


Farmer-Homesteader Potluck w/CoolBot Talk at Halcyon Grange

April 22, 2017  Talk at 5:00 p.m.  Supper at 5:30 p.m.

Our last farmer-homesteader potluck of winter is coming up this weekend.  If you raise food for your community, for your family, for friends & neighbors, OR…if you just like to be around people who grow food, you’re invited to join us at Halcyon Grange for a potluck.  Bring a dish to share, a food growing tip, your best farm story, planting tips, or tales of animal husbandry.  We’re breaking bread and nourishing each other before we run headlong into another growing season.  At this month’s potluck, we’ll be showcasing our new CoolBot completed with a grant from Maine Farmland Trust’s Community Food Grant.  We’ll share how we did it, pass along what we learned and head down cellar to have a look at the finished space for food storage.  Family friendly event.  All welcome.  Free.

Halcyon Grange is located at 1157 Pleasant St., North Blue Hill, Maine