(Disclaimer: I am a member of the Lummi Island Grange. The views I put forward about the Grange are mine alone and may not reflect the opinions and attitudes of any other Grange member).
I joined the Grange because among island institutions I believed the Grange was best positioned to effect the changes I see as necessary to get the island ready for a future that may have to deal with less of everything. The Grange’s historical interest in farmers, agriculture, local economy, life skills, family and community make it the ideal change agent for Lummi Island.
The founders of the Grange movement were members of the Masonic lodge. I come from a family riddled with 32nd degree Masons and have some understanding of the ritual and secrecy of the Masonic order. Up until around 2000 all Granges were Ritual Granges which followed the Masonic model with degrees of progress, secret handshakes, etc. The Grange, however, was wise enough to realize that this way of doing business was old-fashioned and out of touch. In 1999 the Grange set up a Task Force to revitalize the Grange, to renew it and make it viable. Here’s what the Task Force saw as the problems:
• A steady loss of membership lasting four decades
• Untrained, inconsistent leadership
• Lack of relevance in the community
• Unappealing to younger members
• Poor organizational structure
• Secretive and ritualistic
• Missing important communication’s technology
• Halls in poor shape or disrepair
• Unable to attract new members
• Missing tools that could help
• Dues so low they could not cover expenses
• No plans and few ideas
• No optimism and little help available
• Resistance to change
The Lummi Island Grange leadership at the time was quick to recognize this opportunity and quickly switched from a Ritual Grange to an Action Grange. The focus of the Action Grange was to be recruiting and involving new members. Active membership would lead to Community Programs, Family Programs, and Partnering with other local organizations. All of the Task Force studies are listed here.
We can see on Lummi Island that the Grange is central to the life of the island. The Grange Hall serves as a community center while the Grange organization provides a myriad of activities and sponsored events.
Yet, the younger members of the island community don’t seem drawn to join the Grange. Attracting younger members was the first goal of the 1999 Task Force.
The Grange’s vision for the 21st Century is clear and strong (as defined in the Task Force Report):
“The Grange in the 21st century will be a preeminent organization. It will commit to the development of the potential in families, youth and young adults through dynamic programs and experiences that educate, engage and enrich their lives.
The Grange will be noted for its commitment to the membership through its enabled leadership, its financial and organizational strength, and its ability to make a difference in the lives of children, youth, families and individuals.
The Grange will be a relevant, caring and involved part of the community in which its members are located. It will be well known and understood and considered a viable, involved and distinctive organization.
A person who becomes a member can expect to find in the organization a clear and impressive pathway to membership, outstanding fellowship with leaders and respected citizens of the community, the encouragement to meet and make new friends and the opportunity to lead and be well led.
At the national level, the Grange will be a flexible, well-governed, proactive partner in support of issues that are relevant to members and the communities in which they live. It will be accountable to and supportive of the leadership and membership at the local Grange, responsive to the member’s time and committed to growth, to sustained relevance and to national preeminence.”
In the next part I’ll look at how this vision is evolving through what are known as “Green Granges.”