Feb 162018


I’m in the process of reading a very interesting book, Josiah for President. It raises the question, “Can a plain man of faith… become the leader of America?” I’m at the point where a former congressman has given up his campaign for president and by happenstance meets Josiah, an Old-order Amishman. Clearly, the question suggests that tradition and today are going to collide and our former congressman is going to consider Josiah running for president. (If I’ve raised your curiosity, the book is written by Martha Bolton and published Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI in 2012.)

One of the reasons this book has been on my list for a while is my interest in the Amish. Another is the Grange’s ongoing challenge or reconciling tradition and today. That challenge is not limited to the Grange, certainly. Our entire political system faces it, along with us and other organizations. (I am now encouraged to purchase Girl School cookies online.) Consider how many current political debates have their roots in today versus tradition. Should we abandon the electoral college? Does the thinking of our forefathers when they included the “right to bear arms” still apply in the different world we live in?

There’s no doubt a keen value of the Grange over our history has been its role in promoting the interests of agriculture, defending the welfare of rural people, and supporting good government. Many presidents have expressed support for the Grange throughout its history. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a Granger and explained, “For many years I have been a member of the Grange. I have felt at home in it because it embodies the fine flavor of rural living, which I myself have known and loved. Beyond this, it has been an instrument for expressing in useful activity the highest sentiments and deepest loyalties of Americans.” (President Roosevelt received his Silver Star certificate in 1939-he had been invested with the honor of the Seventh Degree in 1930.)

I think Roosevelt’s explanation of his membership raises an interesting question for all members: “What is it about the Grange that makes us ‘feel at home?’” One of the reasons that might be an interesting and important question is that it requires us to learn more about the Grange and ourselves.

When my brother (who was unfamiliar with the Grange) visited several years ago, I dragged him along on a trip to the Grange Hall where I needed to perform some maintenance-related task. He and I share a love of antiques and old things, so I was pretty sure he’d appreciate the building and some of its furnishings—I left him to explore while I performed my task. When it was time to leave, I found him sitting in the foyer looking transfixed. He said, “Can’t you just picture some old bearded farmers sitting her, gathered around the stove, talking?” I could. They looked very much “at home.” The Grange was the place to meet with like-minded people-not just for the sake of meeting, but for the social opportunity to be with like-minded people in a supportive and sharing way.

Since his visit, the wood stove has been removed by order of the insurance company. But when we have a meeting or community program, people still gather on the porch in the summer or under the heating ducts in the winter. I have always been fascinated how nearly everyone wants to help when we start cleaning up after a potluck supper. There’s a warmth that doesn’t come from the sun or the furnace. It might be the “fine flavor of rural living” in action.

I don’t know if Josiah will become president—would there be an armored buggy? But I do know that the Grange needs to be a place where people feel at home. When we look to our traditions and our heritage, we have much to help us encourage that. We just have to figure out how to marry tradition and today instead of forcing them to collide.

The Grange Way: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, freedom; in all things charity.

Information regarding Roosevelt’s Grange membership and his explanation was garnered from the book, “The Grange – Friend of the Farmer” by Charles M. Gardner, published by the National Grange in 1949.

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.

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Feb 162018

Grange Month is fast approaching.  Have you made plans yet? Have you ordered your Certificates and/or Plaques you may need? Have you invited your guests?  It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant as long as you celebrate the Grange.  Have a discussion within your own membership – What is the Grange – What the Grange means to me – What are the benefits of being a Grange member – What are the benefits of having a Grange in your community – Do we need to rethink our goals and purposes – Why did you join – Why are you needed in the Grange and the Community?  There are no right or wrong answers but be respectful of everyone’s opinion.

During the year, we encourage you as members to come up with resolutions to be acted upon in some way or another.  Some are legislative, beneficial or helpful, regulate by-laws, some to make changes to an idea, some supportive and others against something.  Each of these resolutions is valuable to us as an organization, agree or disagree.  It was brought to my attention at the officers meeting back in December that these “ideas” are great, however after the initial discussion at the Grange where they originated, then the floor discussion at State Session, the idea is “noted in the records and placed on file” then promptly forgotten about. In many cases, the action recommended, is not done or followed through.  Even the sponsoring Grange doesn’t complete the task.  For example:  With the pedestrians being more vulnerable when walking after dark, why not purchase and hand out reflective vests.  Vests can be purchased at the dollar store.   This was only one of the resolutions voted on at state Grange.  Did anyone follow through with the purchase and distribution of the vests? Did the sponsoring Grange ACT on the resolution?  I encourage you to make these resolutions actually happen even on just a small scale.  Something to think about which will go along with Grange Month or whenever we work on it.

I do realize some of our Granges do not hold regular meetings in the winter time so communications get a little behind. During February important letters were sent to the secretaries of each Grange with more to come. Please ask your secretary to find these letters and read them at your next meeting.  The information, even though they may be dated January or February affects us all and should be part of your records, discussions and appropriate action taken.

I know I am repeating myself but feel the need to do so with another reminder about handling of Grange funds. There are still concerns and questions coming to me about the accountability of funds in the Grange.  The head of a committee raising funds, no matter what the funds are raised for or how they are raised, needs to report to the Grange.  The funds go through the secretary to the treasurer.  All expenditures you have for an event, project, bingo, refreshments, kitchen fund, food, supplies, yard sales, etc. need to be brought to the Grange with all receipts showing the purchase(s). If you are in charge of fund raising you should not just go set up an account/CD, etc. on your own, those funds still need to be reported to and go through the Grange.  That includes donations also.

We still have lots of special edition session theme t-shirts at HQ to assist with fund raising for the NE Regional hosting of National Session. If you are interested, get your “Unique as a Snowflake” shirts now, contact the office at 1-800-464-3421.  National session will be in Stowe, Vermont November 12-17, 2018.

Feb 152018

A mug WB

In a recent blog post, Seth Godin pointed out Newton’s law of thermodynamics postulates that energy is constant and can neither be created or destroyed. Seth goes on to point out the in organizational dynamics, the exact opposite is true, energy is constantly being created and destroyed. He also notes it’s easy to find acceptable reasons/excuses/explanations for being the passive person who takes out more than puts in.

That’s a powerful consideration for Grange members because whether we create or destroy is really is a choice. That’s even true in the conversations we have. If you’ve ever tried to have a conversation with someone who is clearly not interested, you know how quickly energy can be destroyed.

One of the reasons communication is so important in any organization is this “law of organizational dynamics.” What and how we communicate either creates energy or destroys it. In fact, the very absence of communication can be energy-destroying. If we’re not talking about it, how important is it?

This is one reason I’ve been emphasizing photos and news about what local Granges are doing. There have been some great posts on the website recently reporting on “exciting Granges and Grangers.” Because of my interest in kids, I liken it to posting the kids’ school papers on the fridge where the whole family can see them. We are creating energy

And some of that energy spreads literally across the country. The National Grange magazine “Good Day!” recently printed a half page full-color photo of Dave Gowen and his daughter Hannah (Highland Lake Grange). The story behind the photo is that the Gowen’s were recently recognized as a “Grange Legacy Family” – Hannah is the sixth generation of a family in which every generation has been Grange Members.

And that’s not the only reference to Maine Grangers in this and past issues. Last fall Wes Ryder’s Poem (Danville Junction Grange) about the Grange’s Birthday filled a complete page of this National Grange Magazine.

So I’m going to plug Good Day! It’s an energy creator and much of it is relevant to Maine. It’s also very affordable at $14 per year (member price)—a great value. Shouldn’t there be at least one subscriber in every Grange in Maine? (I checked the numbers, we’re not even close.)

Who are the energy creators? How do we support them?

“I’m a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other, and how they can achieve the kind of freedoms that they’re interested in.”

Bill Gates

2017 National Grange Good Day! Subscription Order Form–information and form for subscribing to the Good Day! Magazine.

Speaking of subscriptions… why not

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Feb 112018

The most recent issue of Good Day! National Grange magazine includes a half-page photo of David Gowen and his daughter Hannah. That, of itself, is exciting, but even more exciting is the reason and the story behind the photo. During the awards reception of the 151st Annual National Grange Convention, the Gowen family was one of seventy families across the nation who were honored with Legacy certificates. The certificates recognize the decades of service running through some Grange Families. For the Gowen Family, that includes six generations of membership in the Grange, starting in 1875 when James and Clarinda Gowen (first generation) and James and Ida Gowen (second generation) were all members of Westbrook Grange #87 (now Highland Lake Grange #87). That’s a lot of Grangers and a lot of Grange Service! Congratulations to the Gowens–the only family from Maine to receive this honor!

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Your family may qualify for recognition as a Grange Legacy Family if you can provide information about five or more generations of your family that have been part of the Grange.  Learn more about the program here. Awards are presented annually at the National Grange Convention. Deadline for applications for this year is August 6, 2018.

Jan 282018

The Mid Atlantic Grange Leaders Conference will be held in Westminster, MD, March 16-18. It is for ANY Grange member but includes all the fun of a Regional Junior/Youth Conference and resources of a Leader’s Conference (with the addition of Lecturer’s materials).

National Grange Master Betsy Huber, National Lecturer Chris Hamp, National Junior Director Sam Wilkins and Youth Director Charlene Espenshade are just a few of the presenters. There are options for every age and every member type/interest; food, fellowship, fun… a tour, a service project, membership workshops, nuts and bolts leadership training, and lots of things to take home to your members. Please share this information with your members.

Some of you may not typically attend our regional or be hosting your own (NC/ME) this year, but you may have members who are unable to make your regional due to work or school schedules and wish to have this opportunity to qualify for Youth/Junior programs and more.  You can read the full schedule (and share it) below or with the attachment and register online at tiny.cc/MAGLC18 or using the form included in the information packet (available on the MSG website): Mid-Atlantic Grange Leaders Conference 2018.

Jan 192018

The January issue of the Patrons Chain National Grange Newsletter is now available! It contains stories like;

  • Get ready to share ‘Grange Way’ in 2018
  • Get ready for Grange Month!
  • Have you missed us? Special double issue to arrive in mail soon
  • Youth Focus: Community Service Award
  • Make plans to attend a region conference
  • Trump, Purdue make rural broadband a priority
  • Program possibilities abound from Lecturer
  • Legislative Fly-In 2018
  • Grange Month Community Citizen and Public Service Awards
  • 2018 Subordinate Grange Survey
  • Proclaim Grange’s great Legacy in 2018!
  • Fundraiser: Grange Foundation challenge coins
  • 2018 Quilt Block Contest
  • 2018 National Grange Photography Showcase
  • 2018 Evening of Excellence participants guidelines
  • National Grange Building Fund pledge form
  • 1 in 1,000 Club of the Grange Foundation

Read the complete issue (and back issues if you’d like!) on the National Grange Website. (This link is always available on the Program Books and Information Page.)

Grange Month information is available in this issue!

Jan 152018


Regular followers will remember that last month’s column reflected on the truth, “We get the Christmas we deserve.” As I paged through the manual for inspiration for this month’s, it was perhaps fate that directed me to the Fourth Degree where the secretary addresses the candidates. After reminding them of the importance of punctuality, the secretary points out “there is work for all,” and adds “those reap the most abundant harvest of Grange benefits [are those] who contribute most liberally of their own time and talent.”

We might well wonder if our secretary is suggesting “We get the Grange we deserve.” The challenge is reminiscent of the analogy of sowing and reaping. If we sow our time and talent liberally in our Grange, we shall harvest abundantly. That could be a sobering thought for anyone who is questioning or unhappy with what the or she is “getting out” of membership. That unhappy member may be getting the Grange he or she deserves.

However, in fairness, we should also consider the accuracy of the statement, “There is work for all.” Is there? There’s got to be more going on than just meetings in order for there to be work for all.

Assuming there is work to do, it’s commonly accepted that one good membership retention technique is to get and keep new members involved. I’d like to go one further.

There’s an old joke about the pig and the hen walking down the road together. The topic of breakfast (bacon and eggs) comes up. The pig points out that all that’s required of the hen is involvement. For the pig, commitment is required.

The founders of the Grange recognized the importance of purpose and demonstrated insight into how to build an effective organization. It’s hard to get people involved in purposelessness. It’s impossible to gain commitment without purpose. With clear purpose, it should become equally clear that there is work for everyone. If there is no purpose, then there is no work.  It would be like asking people to show up to weed a garden where nothing has been planted!

Another insight of our founders was building a “grassroots” organization. While the umbrella is important, each Subordinate/Community Grange gets to create their own image–an opportunity that does encourage commitment. Personally, I believe the diversity in our Order is one of our biggest strengths. We can say with confidence, “There is work for all,” because our organization is built to accommodate different passions. We’re not just for farmers. Just look at a committee list and consider the opportunities ranging from community service, healthy living, women’s activities… to children/juniors… legislative matters… and we’re not really limited to those. There are several Granges in Maine that have theatre companies. There can be engaging and rewarding work for all in any Grange.

The Grange Way: in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, freedom; in all things charity.


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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.

Jan 152018

A mug WB

“You always get more of what you focus on!

 This fundamental management principle seems to have “popped up” a lot recently. The late Rita Pierson, a well-known educator in her presentation “Every Kid Needs a Champion” tells the story of a young fellow who took a math quiz. Out of twenty questions, he got eighteen wrong. At the top of his paper, she wrote “Plus Two” and drew a smiley face. When he received his paper, he approached her desk, the dialog went something like this:

“Ms. Pierson, is this an ‘F’?”


“Then why’d you write plus two and draw a smiley face?!”

“Because you got two right! You didn’t miss ‘em all! You are on the way! And won’t you do better next time…”

 He left the conversation encouraged and enthused, focused on the “two right” and the fact that his teacher had confidence in him. She points out that “eighteen wrong sucks the life out of you… plus two says “I ain’t all bad.’”

So how does this apply to communication? I think in two ways: what we talk about and how we talk about it? Eleanor Roosevelt said, “”Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Obviously, there are times when each of those things bears conversation—but what is our focus? To apply this to our Grange, what are we discussing during our potluck suppers and meetings? I was at a supper once where two or three people dominated the conversation with their personal misfortunes and everything that was wrong with the organization, including the fact they weren’t getting new members. “Nobody has time… people aren’t interested in… it’s the Internet!” With that focus, will they? “Eighteen wrong sucks the life out of you.”

Some years ago when I was doing organizational consulting, I led a project team challenged to increase employee retention at a client company. People would work one day and quit. The company was actually having trouble maintaining production because they were worried about how many employees wouldn’t show up. They proudly displayed and shared all of the steps they had taken to resolve the problem including “exit interviews” with employees who quit. “Why are you leaving?” It was interesting data, but “You get more of what you focus on!” So we turned things upside down. One of our first recommendations was that we interview employees who had been with the company and ask what kept them there. We did some things that at first seemed crazy, but we knew we had to change the focus. We outlawed talking about absenteeism and posted the number present in the cafeteria every morning–not the number absent. We required supervisors to stand by the door at the end of the day and say goodnight to their employees and “see you tomorrow.” These are just a few examples. It worked.

Much like Ms. Pierson, if we’re going to talk about that quiz (the what), let’s focus on what was right (the how). There’s a big difference between trying to get less wrong and trying to get more right. If we’re going to talk about attendance, let’s focus on how many are present. If we’re going to talk about our Grange, let’s talk about the good stuff.

I’m challenging members to get behind a “Plus Two” drive which means we focus on what we’re doing right – no matter how insignificant it might seem to us—and submit reports and photos to the website. We have a few members (Granges) who do so dependably – our “Plus Two.” (I haven’t counted, but it’s more than two!) If you have a well-attended public supper, get somebody to snap a photo and submit it to the site. If your Grange does a community service project, tell us about it. If you get a repair done to your hall, share the news! When you take in new members, take a photo of them and send their names. If you need some help with ideas or writing, let me know!

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs,
The homely hen lays one.
The codfish never cackles
To tell you what she’s done.
And so we scorn the codfish,
While the humble hen we prize,
Which only goes to show you
That it pays to advertise.

Rita Pierson’s presentation is a TED Talk … I consider it a “must see” for teachers, parents–anyone who works with children! But it has application in all of life. You can watch the entire presentation on my website. It’s potentially life-changing and takes less than eight minutes!

Jan 132018

Hello everyone and Happy New Year. I have been working on reviewing, reviving, and rewriting some Guidelines for Grange Procedure. I have mailed this information packet out to the Subordinate and Pomona Masters this week. Please let me know, if you as Master, did not get it. I hope each of you will read through it and use it in your meetings. I hope you will find it helpful. If you have any comments or questions, please drop me a line. This is the general paperwork I shared with the Officers and Deputies at our meetings, but more detailed.

In these Guidelines you will find the following information and instructions:
• Suggestions and Instructions for Grange Procedure
• Information/instructions (short paragraphs) for a regular meeting
• Procedure / Opening in Full Form (Opening Bible, Taking the Word and Report; Presentation of the Flag; Presenting Applications or bill from Secretary to Master; Closing the Bible; Retiring the Flag; Presenting Honored Guests; Proper Order for Introducing Honored Guests)
• Procedure / Open Meeting — Opening and Closing the Grange
• Balloting Procedure for Applications
• Handling Motions and Voting Procedure
• Proper Language/Procedure Returning from Recess
• Procedure for Handling Grange Funds
• Samples: Secretary’s & Treasurer’s Receipts and Improved Order Book
• How Grange Policy is developed: It all begins in the Local Grange — Writing Resolutions, Resolutions becomes policy — How to handle resolutions (2 pages)
• Guidelines for Grange Loan Program
• Setting Goals and Five (5) Step Problem Solver
• Successful Granges are Led by People, Responsibilities of a Leader
• Considerations for Grange Leaders
• 20 Tips for Bolstering Membership Retention
• Maine State Grange Leadership Directory
• Order Form: Membership Recognition Seals & Certificates

Additional information: Deputies Instruction/Visitation Report for Grange Procedure; Basic Beginning Steps for Organizing or Reorganizing A Grange; Consolidation of Subordinate Granges; Procedure for Surrender of Charter; Suspension or Revocation of Charters; Sale, Encumbrance or Transfer of Real Property of Subordinate or Pomona Granges; Property of Granges Which Surrender Their Charter or Whose Charter Has Been Revoked; other material is available. A list of new items in the 2013 version of the Subordinate Grange Manual is included.