STATE OF THE GRANGE
by Mary Pols
Originally Posted on the Portland Press Herlad
This week, the Maine State Grange holds its annual conference in Skowhegan.
What, you didn’t know?
Once upon a time, you absolutely would have known, because Grange was an integral part of Maine rural life, a gathering place for farmers and community members to share news, information and concerns. If you worried about being able to afford insurance or being ripped off by the railroad monopolies taking your agricultural products out of Maine, or just wanted to slough off your cares by going to a dance, you turned to the Grange. It did cooperative buys on insurance and seeds, lobbied Washington on your behalf and could always be relied on to feature a big empty room with a fine dance floor.
The ritual heavy, Christian-oriented and unusually progressive Grange (female members got the vote long before the rest of American women did) was the original Facetime for farmers. Or rather, “Grange.” Like Farm Bureau, Grange hardly needed an article. But consider this: The 2015 Maine State Grange conference is not being held at Skowhegan Grange, because declining membership caused that to close several years ago, although the building was saved and is being rehabbed.
There are two trends in Maine Granges. One is positive: Young or younger farmers are taking an interest in revitalizing the institution, fixing up old buildings; adding bathrooms where there were none; hosting farmers markets and contra dances; sharing Grange space with entertainment, as at the Wayside Grange and Theatre in Dexter; and returning to the cooperative model for better buying power for local farmers, hobby or hard-core, as at the Halcyon Grange in North Blue Hill.
But the second trend, the negative one, are Granges shutting for lack of membership, and that decline still outweighs the positive.
Read the whole article at the Portland Press Herald!