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

Apr 182017
 

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Over thirty people were present recently to help Danville Junction Grange celebrate the one-hundred-fiftieth birthday of the Grange at their annual Open Meeting in conjunction with National Grange Month.

A birthday cake was enjoyed during the dessert, which preceded the meeting.

A re-dedication ceremony, which was issued by National Grange for their 125th anniversary, was conducted by Lecturer Norma Meserve and other officers.  Wes Ryder read an original poem commemorating the occasion.

Angelo Giberti entertained the audience by providing music on the guitar.

Maine State trooper Elgin Physic was presented with the Community Citizen Award by State Community Service Committee Chair Christine Corliss and Danville Community Chair Glenys Ryder.  Trooper Physic was named “Officer of the Year” at state session last fall.

State Community Service Chair Christine Corliss surprised Sister Glenys and Danville Junction Grange by presenting a framed certificate of appreciation for their continuous service.

A Membership Award for sixty- five years of continuous membership was presented to Glenys Ryder by her husband, Past Master Wesley Ryder.   She is still active at the Subordinate, Pomona, and State levels of the Grange, currently being Chairman of the Maine State Grange Executive Committee.

It was a marvelous evening of food, fun, and fellowship!

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!

Apr 132017
 

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By Walter Boomsma

“The question has been asked, ‘How long will the Grange live?” I believe it will live as long as it continues to serve the welfare of agriculture and the nation. Whenever it becomes ingrown and selfish, and the members look on it only as a means of bringing them pleasure, entertainment, or profit, it will fade away.”

Those words for today were actually written and spoken in the 1940’s by then National Master Albert S. Goss.[1]

One of the pointed questions asked during our Piscataquis Pomona town hall meeting with now National Master Betsy Huber was, “Given we are a diverse, grassroots organization, what really unites us?” The question may be as important as the answer because the question drives us back to our roots and fundamental principles and policies.

Ironically, just a few days later, a member of the media asked me, “What is your hope for the Grange?” It was one of the few times I didn’t have a prepared soundbite for a reply. After fumbling a bit, I answered, “that it continues to be a vibrant and energetic organization that contributes to our communities.” Feeling that I hadn’t exactly given a great answer, it was that question which later made me pull down some of my Grange books and do some reading and thinking.

Master Goss’s hope can be found in the second paragraph. “But to those who find pleasure in doing something for the common good, the Grange provides an instrument both effective and satisfying. Through it we can jointly find our entertainment and our pleasure in service, while at the same time we can advance the interests of our neighbors and ourselves in the fields of health, education, business and in almost limitless ways. Through the Grange we have an opportunity to give, and the more we give the more we gain.”

If the reporter who interviewed me had the ability to interview Master Goss, I suspect he would have used a redirect in his reply to the reporter’s question, “What is your hope for the Grange?” I think that the master might have replied that he had a belief, not a hope. There’s an important difference in those two words. Master Goss believed, “…it will still be the motivating center from which unlimited community welfare enterprises originate; and it will continue to build and strengthen the farm home as its ultimate purpose.”

One of the many strengths of our Order is an almost uncanny ability to look to the past as we move to the future. When we talk about our Granges, we too often get focused on today’s challenges like how hard it is to get members or the need to “close” for the winter to avoid a heating bill. Perhaps it is time to explore our traditions and our history of success. In the same book I found Master Goss’s prophecy, I stumbled on to this statement: “The Grange has lived and will live because it is founded on the home, the family, and the farm.”

Is that any less true today, some seventy-five years later? Will we continue to live because we are founded on the home, the family, and the farm? One of the reasons I decided to write this “Exploring Traditions…” column every month is my belief that much of our history, heritage, tradition, and practice has application for today—if we are willing and able to understand and apply it.

There’s a song that will be familiar to many… “He’s an old hippie and he don’t know what to do… should he hang on to the old or grab on to the new?” Perhaps we could change one word and make it our opening song at an occasional meeting. “He’s an old Granger and he don’t know what to do… should he hang on to the old or grab on to new?”

The problem is the question is an absolute implying there’s a required a choice between the old and the new. I don’t know about hippies, but Grangers do not need to make an either-or choice. We need to hang on to the old to the extent it makes sense and to the degree it got us where we are. But we also need to grab on to the new if we are going to “be the motivating center from which unlimited community welfare enterprises originate.”

Do you share Master Goss’s belief? Can you see a sign over the door to your Grange Hall that reads, “Welcome to the motivating center from which unlimited community welfare enterprises originate!” That’s better than “closed for the winter.”


[1] Gardner, C. M. (1949). The Grange — Friend of the Farmer. Washington DC: National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry.

 

 

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.

Apr 042017
 

Public Hearings have been scheduled for two bills supported by Maine State Grange Resolutions passed in 2015 and 2016:

The public hearing for LD 725 will be on April 10, Monday, at 10 am in Room 214 of the Cross Office Building (right across from state house). LD 725 is An Act To Recognize Local Control Regarding Food and Water Systems.

The public hearing for LD 835 An Act to Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers will be the same week on April 13th, Thursday, at 1 pm also in Room 214 of Cross Office Building.

Grangers who would like their voices heard are encouraged to attend these hearings and offer testimony! For additional information and assistance, you may contact Heather Retberg  (quillsendfarmatgmaildotcom)  , Master of Halcyon Grange.

Mar 272017
 

By Rick Watson, Master of Fairview Grange

Hello, friends of the Fairview Grange. Thanks for keeping an eye on what is going on at your local Grange, #342, in Smithfield Maine.

This week we celebrated 119 years of continuous operation with a great dinner on Thursday evening. We were especially pleased to have Grange members from other Granges join us. They came from at least Abbot, Bingham, Norridgewock, Madison, and we also had visitors from the State Grange level. Former Master of the Maine State Grange, Vicki Huff, Communications Director Walter Boomsma with his lovely wife Janice, and three from The Maine Grange Agricultural Committee (I think Mr. And Mrs. Rance Pooler and Mrs. Barker represented that committee). Also attending to help us celebrate were Terry and Harriet Spencer, local to us in Smithfield, but also involved in various capacities with the State and Pomona. Special thanks to Walter Boomsma for sharing some stories about what he sees and hears successful Granges doing. We thank all of them for helping us celebrate 119 years.

Noteworthy speakers in addition to Walter were Secretary Sharon Wood and Lecturer Kerry Cubas. Sharon read a Grange history her mother had written in 1971 about the early days of the Grange. Kerry has started a “living history, or spoken history” of our local Grange working with Shelby Watson, and gave us a taste of the project by telling us what her first two interviewees had to say. Fittingly for this event, the recollections of Marilyn and David were told. Kerry hopes to interview all our members so we may keep our history alive. Working in a similar vein to document and to preserve our history, Karie Watson has started reframing the pictures in the Grange and is working to get the people, our people from the community through the years, identified and noted.

Making the night extra special was being able to recognize Marilyn Giroux for her 75 years of membership in the Grange. Marilyn is one of our favorite “Grange Gal’s” and we were pleased to celebrate this milestone with her. She was surrounded by several generations of family and friends Thursday and many from the community took a minute to share a story about their interactions with her through the years. David Hartford, another long time member presented her with certificates of appreciation and recognition from the National and State Granges. He also read her a poem he had written, and shared a couple stories from their youth. A nice tribute. Special thanks to David.

We had plenty of great food, great company, and it truly felt like an evening spent with family. The Hall looked great and I would be negligent to not recognize Karie Watson for her efforts putting on the meal and also to her and to Sharon for making the Hall look so fresh, Springlike and inviting for our celebration.

Thanks to all who cooked, cleaned, lugged and tugged, decorated, hauled trash, washed dishes, spoke, made the trip to join us or in any other way helped make it a fitting tribute to 119 years in Smithfield.

Mar 162017
 

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By Walter Boomsma

“We are constantly passing blindly along the pathway of life, events occurring that we do not understand, and often encountering difficulties and obstructions in our way; but we should press forward, having Faith that God will ultimately bring us into broad and pleasant fields of paradise.”

The master’s observation to first degree candidates is certainly of interest to an organization steeped in history and tradition. For one hundred fifty years, patrons of husbandry have survived passing along the pathway of life, perhaps not totally blindly, but certainly encountering events we did not often understand. There can be little doubt that we have (and do) encountered difficulties and obstructions along our way. For our organization, the key phrase is “we should press forward.”

Pressing forward does not equal abandoning the past. But it does mean that we must face those difficulties and obstructions while being good stewards without clinging unreasonably to the past and tradition but also without abandoning the basic beliefs and practices that have and will continue to serve us well. We do that as individuals, should be do any less as an organization?

As I study these words, it occurs to me that this might be meant to describe a process—one that is cyclical and repeats itself—just as do the seasons of the year. There are, in fact, “broad and pleasant fields of paradise” along the pathway that includes “difficulties and obstructions.”

Later, in the same degree, the master uses the analogy of grass to challenge the candidates to consider “man’s transitory state upon earth and also of a brighter and more glorious truth.”

“As the grass awakens to life again at the call of Spring, does not each tiny spear, as it shoots from the ground, preach to you of the resurrection and immortality? Let the modesty and usefulness of the humble grass be to you an object of imitation…”

This lesson of this degree gives us much to consider. While introducing this lesson, the master holds a bundle of dried grasses as a visual aid. “This bouquet as you perceive, is composed wholly of different varieties of grasses, possessing little beauty and less of interest to the careless observer, but full on instruction to the receiving mind.”

As we open our minds to consider the lesson, we must immediately recognize the renewal quality of grass. As the snow melts, here in Maine, we see brown. But soon it will awaken. I liken this to getting past the difficulties and obstructions we face and arriving into broad and pleasant fields.

But for some reason, the words “does not each tiny spear, as it shoots from the ground…” looked different to me when I saw them this time, perhaps because I was for the first time seeing this as it applies not only to us as individuals, but also as an organization. I suddenly saw each member as a “tiny spear” of grass. I also saw those spears shooting from the ground in a way of renewal that would create a broad and pleasant field of paradise.

That brings us to the word “Faith.” We must believe in ourselves and our Order. We will keep celebrating birthdays if we believe we can and follow the lessons our founders gave us.

 


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.

Feb 252017
 

Communication Bullets are short but important news!

Ag Day at the legislature is Wednesday, April 5, 2017.  Once again, the Grange will have a booth at the State House and fudge is needed–our legislators look forward to this every year. Please consider making some fudge and getting it delivered to Maine State Grange Headquarters before 8:00 a.m. April 5, 2017. If you’d like to drop it off before that day, call to make sure someone will be at the office. Thanks!


We’ve recently added some important documents to the “Program Books and Information Page.” Among many other resources you’ll now find:


Don’t forget the clock is ticking down to Grange Month! There are many promotional resources available on the website… you should have your celebration fairly well planned and be starting a publicity program that includes press releases, posters in local businesses, churches, etc., and personal invitations to local dignitaries. You could have a Grange Birthday Party–just be careful lighting 150 candles!

Feb 152017
 

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By Walter Boomsma

Most Grangers I talk with admit that the first time they celebrated the four degrees, the event was a bit of a blur and the instruction they received wasn’t fully appreciated. It is certainly interesting to ask Grangers to recite one or two things they distinctly remember from that experience.

One of my distinct memories happened during the Second Degree when the Master showed us a few kernels of corn in his hand. I remember watching his fingers move as he explained, “We are now to teach you how to plant the seed. Behold these inanimate kernels of corn! But the germ has life—the future plant is there. We loosen the soil—we bury the seed; and in so doing impress upon our minds the truth of the immortality of the soul. There is no object in which, to appearance, life and death border so closely together as in the grains of seed buried in the earth; but when life seems extinct a fuller and richer existence begins anew.

Those words and thoughts can be a great comfort to us in times of sorrow. But the lesson of the seeds has nearly endless application. I have occasionally used an apple to make a similar point. (This might be a short lecturer’s program!) I will hold up an apple and ask, “How many seeds are in this apple?” Most people will not know, so we may actually cut it open and count them. One of those seeds can then be selected and another question poised. “How many apples are in this seed?”

 Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple… but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.

-Robert Schuller

The lesson of the apple seed is the lesson of the kernel of corn—each contain unlimited potential. “From this little seed we have, first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. So with the mind, when duly nourished with Faith and Hope…

Later, in the same degree, the Master instructs, “May the lessons you have received find genial soil in your minds. Cultivate with hope the seed thus planted, that it may yield an hundred fold.

The lessons of the Grange are the lessons of agriculture. Nature can teach us much if we listen and much of our Grange tradition and instruction encourages us to listen and learn those lessons.

Ceres explains, “As we look around and see the beautiful transformation of seeds into attractive plants or majestic trees, we have but another lesson taught us of the wondrous works of God. Changes and transformations are constantly passing before us—the dying grain into the living stalk, the tiny seeds into majestic trees, the bud to blossom, the blossom to fruit. All these preach eloquently of the wonder-working God; and if the beauties of this world, when rightly viewed, offer so much of the magnificence of the Creator to charm us here, what must be the sublime grandeur of that Paradise above, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens?

I recall a news anchor’s comment following a story about Valley Grange’s Words for Thirds Program. He’d observed how excited the kids were about dictionaries and reading and closed his segment by saying, simply, “There is hope.” All of the lessons of the Grange seem to bring us inescapably to that one word–hope.

We are challenged to consider the words we say, the gifts we give, the simple actions we take as seeds. They are the germs of life. The future lies in them, even when we can’t see it. We are planting hope.


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.

Feb 102017
 

Falls Church, VA—February 2, 2017—The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund (FTCLDF) is proud to announce that Maine farmer Heather Retberg is the winner of the second annual Gravel Road Gang Activism Award, an honor recognizing FTCLDF members for success in working on food freedom legislation and initiatives. Heather is a farming mother, the lead organizer and advocate for Local Food RULES, a board member for Food for Maine’s Future, and is working with her local grange, the Halcyon Grange #345 in North Blue Hill to rebuild food and farming infrastructure while maintaining legal space for traditional food exchanges. Retberg and her husband Phil own and operate Quill’s End Farm in Penobscot, producing raw milk, meat, and eggs. Utah farmers Symbria and Sara Patterson were the winners of the inaugural Gravel Road Gang Award in 2016.

The award is named in honor of Donna Betts, a longtime farmer and activist in southeastern Ohio. Betts has been a walking history of farming and farm politics in Ohio since World War II. A longtime advocate of measures favoring small farmers and local food production, Betts has not been afraid to take on the government. She was a successful litigant in an eight-year court battle with the Ohio Department of Agriculture over her right to sell raw pet milk, a case in which she recovered attorneys’ fees from the Department. The Gravel Road Gang is Betts’ name for a group of women that have been meeting in her area the past 16 years to discuss farming, activism, and other matters of the day.

Retberg has been instrumental in the passage of the Local Food and Community Self-Governance Ordinance (LFCSGO) in 18 Maine towns. Under the LFCSGO, farmers and other local food producers can sell their products direct-to-consumers within the ordinance town’s borders without licensing or inspection. Along with her husband Phil, farmer Deborah Evans, farmer Bob St Peter, and Larissa Curlik, Retberg drafted the ordinance in 2010, and in 2011 five towns including Penobscot became the first to adopt the ordinance. The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) subsequently challenged the ordinance by filing suit against dairy farmer Dan Brown, claiming he was violating state law by selling raw milk and canned goods from his farmstand in the ordinance town of Blue Hill without a state license. The case went all the way to the Maine Supreme Court, which did not strike down the ordinance but did rule against Brown. The Court avoided preempting the LFCSGO, choosing to interpret the language “narrowly” to exempt farmers and food producers only from municipal licensing and inspection. While the case was making its way through the courts, the Maine legislature passed a bill requiring DACF to support policies that through local control preserve the ability of communities to produce, process, sell, purchase, and consume locally produced foods. The 2014 state Supreme Court decision has not slowed the LFCSGO’s momentum; since the court’s ruling, seven towns have adopted the ordinance.

Retberg is the lead organizer advocate of Local Food Rules, a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage the passage of local food ordinances in Maine. She has traveled around the state since 2011 supporting and assisting the efforts of local leaders as their own towns consider its passage. She is currently working with local organizers toward passage of the ordinance in Rockland, which would mark the first time a city has adopted the LFCSGO. FTCLDF has provided financial support for her travel expenses and many hours spent the past three years working to increase the number of ordinance-protected towns.

On the state level, Retberg has worked successfully on scale-appropriate regulation for on-farm poultry processing and has been part of several attempts to adopt the LFCSGO statewide. In 2016, a constitutional right to food amendment that would have enshrined a right to food of our choosing and food freedom in Maine’s constitution, passed in the Maine House of Representatives but died in the Senate. Retberg helped draft the amendment. In addition, she worked closely with legislator allies on four other bills that same session approaching food sovereignty, food self-sufficiency, and food freedom from different tacks.

In the 2017 legislative session, Retberg will be working to support more people in rural communities who aim to help their town adopt the LFCSGO on the local level. At the state level, she is working primarily on two bills: another effort to adopt the ordinance on a statewide basis as well as a measure toward state recognition of food sovereignty, effectively addressing the threat of state preemption to local control of community food and water systems. Towns and counties in other states have passed food sovereignty ordinances, but when it comes to the number of towns and the strength of the ordinance language, Maine is still ahead of the curve. Retberg has been a leader from the beginning.

FTCLDF works with its members at the federal, state, and local levels on legislation and other initiatives to promote food freedom of choice; we welcome those working on or wanting to work on food freedom bills or similar measures.