It is not uncommon to find me on an airplane flying somewhere to speak at a conference or conduct a workshop. Typically, the person sitting next to me will strike up a conversation and ask what I do. My response is that I work with agriculture teachers and county extension agents. This reply often results in a confused look and the person asks, “Do those things still exist?” For some reason the public thinks FFA, 4-H, county agents and agriculture teachers are a thing of the past. Nothing could be further than the truth.
Likewise, some agricultural educators either believe the Grange is a thing of the past or don’t even know about this group. Last week we looked at the origins of the Patrons of Husbandry (the Grange). This week we look at the current activities of the Grange and have three agricultural teachers describe their experiences with the Grange.
The Grange Today
Today the Grange has 150,000 members in 1,700 local chapters across the country.
Figure 1. Grange Mission Statement
According to the National Grange website:
The Grange is a family, community organization with its roots in agriculture. Founded in 1867, the Grange was formed as a national organization with a local focus. Our members are given the opportunity to learn and grow to their full potential as citizens and leaders.
The family is the base of the organization with full membership beginning at age 14. Women have been equal members since the inception of the Grange. We have a Junior Grange program for children age 5 to 14, that has helped the youngest members of the family learn about community values and citizenship for more than 100 years. Our Grange Youth program develops the leadership skills of our young adults and young married couples.
The foundation of the organization is the Community Grange, which can be found in rural, suburban and urban communities. Faith, hope, charity, and fidelity are the basic lessons of the Community Grange. To learn more, see the Declaration of Purposes.
The Grange has four levels, Community, County or District, State, and National to ensure that the membership’s voice is heard at the appropriate place. Our membership sets the direction and activities for their Community Grange in true grassroots fashion, and those decisions seep up to the national level. Nonpartisan legislative advocacy, educational programs, service projects, and social interaction and networking are just a few of the ways local Granges serve their communities and members.
While the information above describes in general what the Grange is about, one really should explore the Grange website to learn more about the specific activities and programs. There is not enough space in this Footnote to discuss all the activities of the Grange. However, you might want to learn more about the Grange by clicking on the links below:
- Legislative Issues of interest for the Grange
- Member Benefits
- Various Grange Programs including Youth and Junior Grange
- Grange News Briefs
Now Let’s Hear from Some Agricultural Educators
Carolina Tart Warmack teaches agriculture at West Craven High School in North Carolina. She was a state FFA officer in 2011-12. Here is her story.
I was first introduced to the Grange by my grandfather, a lifetime member. He paid for me to attend the NC Grange Youth Camp the summer going into my freshman year of high school. I immediately fell in love with the people and organization. I became active in my local grange as well as the North Carolina State Grange. I went on to serve on the North Carolina Grange Youth team and serve as National Youth Grange Mentor (formerly known as Ambassador). The organization allowed me to expand my leadership experience and learn more about agriculture and the impact the Grange has on agriculture today. It allowed me to travel to many different states for regional and national events: Oklahoma, Idaho, New York, Washington D.C., just to name a few. I made connections and friendships that have lasted me into my adult years.
I enjoy staying active in the Grange not only to continue the friendships that I have made but also because I understand the importance of being active in our local community and at the state level. It gives me an outlet to advocate for agriculture and join the organization in making influential changes to the agriculture industry in North Carolina.
I have continued to share my love for the Grange with my own agriculture education students and this past year had seven of my own students attend their first Grange event: The North Carolina Grange Youth Camp. I encourage agriculture teachers to mention these opportunities to our students to be involved in other agriculture organizations across our state. For more information you can contact me, or Jennie Gentry, NC Grange Youth Director. https://www.ncgrange.com/
Figure 2. Caroline Tart Warmack
Krista Pontius teaches agriculture at Greenwood High School in Millerstown, Pennsylvania. This past year she was the national winner in ABC’s Live Kelly and Ryan Top Teacher Search. She has been teaching since 1997. Here is what she says about the Grange:
When I was seven years old, my mom dropped me off at Grange camp for a week for, what at the time, was the most terrifying experience of my life. However, from the moment that my mom pulled away from the camp, I have had a Grange family which I continue to value to this day. I have fond memories of Junior Grange Camp as a child, visiting the Pennsylvania State Capital, Horseshoe curve in Altoona, a coal mine in Ashland, and many unique locations as a part of our junior grange experience. Now, I have held leadership roles in our grange for many years. My current position is the program director. I enjoy bringing educational programs to our members.
Although my childhood is full of grange memories, the place where I hold the grange most dear to my heart is how the grange opens its hearts and minds to welcome my students. For the past twenty years, our FFA Chapter and subordinate Grange have had a perfect symbiotic relationship. Together, we have served numerous meals, held hunger events for our community, which has raised nearly $40,000 for our local food banks, and started the Perry County Ag Day, which has now become a Perry County Pomona Grange event for all of the schools in our county. Grange members serve on our Occupational Advisory Committee and students do educational programs and presentations for grange meetings.
When I think of the relationship and bonds that have been formed between our local grange members and FFA members, I am reminded of one of the lines that Dr. Woodard says during the American Degree Ceremony, “In unity, there is strength.” To me, the grange is one of the foundational pillars of our community, providing service, education, and fellowship to each and every person who enters our doors. I genuinely believe that our community and our entire country is better because of the work and outreach of granges across our nation and I am so proud to call myself a member of the Patrons of Husbandry.
Figure 3. Krista Pontius on ABC’s Live Kelly and Ryan Top Teacher Search
Jason Davis taught high school agriculture in North Carolina for 7+ years then moved into the State FFA Coordinator position at North Carolina State University (for 14+ years) and is now the Assistant Dean of the School of Agriculture and Biological Sciences at the University of Mount Olive. Here is what he has to say.
I was one of the ag teachers who returned to his home community and former high school to teach. Returning to your homeplace to teach has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage was having a preexisting network of community members that knew me and the role of being an ag teacher. I can’t remember exactly when, but I remember receiving an invite to attend the Westbrook Grange meeting with some of our chapter officers from Mr. Larry and Mrs. Judith Barnes that I attended church with. Because of my respect for them, I agreed and attended my first Grange meeting. To say that the members of the Grange welcomed my students with open arms is an understatement. Over the years our chapter officers attended Grange meetings to present the Creed, perform parliamentary procedure demonstrations, present speeches, and enjoy the fellowship, culinary masterpieces for meals, and educational programs. Those officers went on to become state Grange Chaplain, attend the state conference, and more importantly, become civically engaged in our community.
This past year I was able to chair the committee to celebrate 75 years of Grange history. If you know anything about the Grange, each Grange captures their annual activities in record books and scrapbooks. I reviewed 78 years of Westbrook Grange history through numerous scrapbooks. There were countless roadside clean ups, quilts sewn, meals prepared, landscaping projects, community gardens, fundraisers, and individuals recognized for their contributions.
One thing that was evident in my review of the history of the Westbrook Grange is that the problems of this country, world, and society will not be solved by the government. Nor will they be solved by business and private industry because their job is to make money. The real issues and problems will be solved by dedicated individuals in little grassroots community organizations like the Westbrook Grange. Over the years, transformative change in rural areas has begun by individuals identifying issues and addressing them. Rural electrification, county water, telephone service, are all issues that began through Grange support and lobbying. Today is no different. There are needs in our rural communities such as childhood hunger, access to health care, broadband access……and the list goes on and on. Unfortunately, there are always issues to solve, so our work is far from done.
Figure 4. Jason Davis
The phrase “it takes a village to raise a child” originates from an African proverb and conveys the idea that it takes many people (the village) to nurture and educate a child. Accordingly, we should encourage our students to be involved in more than just FFA or 4-H. Grange youth activities could help contribute to the development and growth of our young people.
Before I retired from the university, I taught a graduate course on the foundations of agricultural and extension education. One assignment was to study the various agricultural organizations and select one that you would consider joining and tell why. I distinctly remember one student who selected the Grange. Why did he choose the Grange? The School Board or an administrator (I don’t remember which) had made the decision to close the agricultural program in his community. When the local Grange heard of this, they took action, and the decision was reversed.
Fred Rogers in the television show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood asks the question “Won’t you be my neighbor?” The Grange would be a good neighbor for an agricultural educator to have. There are benefits for our program and students by being a neighbor to the Grange.
To find a Grange near you go to https://www.nationalgrange.org/find-a-grange-test/. Just enter your zip code and leave the rest blank. You might want to increase the value of the “Select a distance”.