(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 believe the Grange is 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 Lummi Island Grange is an Action Grange. Action Granges operate like a service club. If you are familiar with Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, etc. you will understand this. A service club holds fund raising events using the proceeds for the benefit of the community and offers service projects with the same community goal. One difference between The Grange and Rotary or Kiwanis is that The Grange accepted women members from the beginning. Rotary and Kiwanis got around to open membership in the 80′s. That’s the 1980′s.
In the category of women as members and in leadership positions, the Grange was about 100 years ahead of its time.
In Oregon and California there a handful of Action Granges that are styling themselves as “Green Granges.” The Green Grange concept is particularly interesting to me because it is compatible with the information and ideas I’ve been trying to get across in this blog. It’s possible the Green Grange is a concept that will not appeal equally to all Grange members but it seems to me to be a cutting edge idea that positions a local Grange to be the leader in the community with very clear goals and objectives. The Live Oak Grange of Santa Cruz, California is possibly the best example of the Green Grange. Their mission is stated as follows:
“The mission of the Green Grange is to be a hub for advocacy and activism on behalf of small family farmers, organic farming, sustainability, and local resilience.”
Here’s the interesting part about the Green Grange from the perspective of the Live Oak Grange of Santa Cruz. Their Grange was near death in the 90′s when a group of young, active people decided to join and, in effect, take over. They claim that their success in revitalizing the Live Oak Grange inspired the National Grange to form the Task Force to Revitalize the Grange which I wrote about in the last post. The Live Oak Grange master (Grange talk for president) at the time represented California on that task force and the Live Oak Grange became the first official Action Grange. Their website is worth a visit just to look at the photos of their officers. (Sebastapol, CA is also a Green Grange).
In Oregon, five small-town Granges have banded together in a consortium of Green Granges. This video featuring an Oregon Granger succinctly recaps the history of the Grange and describes the Green Grange movement.
Five in Oregon; two in California. Seven out of 2100 Granges indicates the Green Grange movement doesn’t represent a tsunami of change. But then, the Transition Movement, though gaining steam, is quite small too. Historically, the Grange movement itself had a difficult time getting started. The Green Granges are radical in the great historical tradition of the Grange movement that swept the country in the late nineteenth century.
This letter, worth reading in its entirety, by an officer of the Silverton, Oregon Grange is very pointed and ends with these three important paragraphs:
“The Grange as an organization, needs to focus on relocalization of the rural economy. The coming years will see increased energy costs, which will dramatically affect the cost of most of our commodities, as most goods are produced and shipped vast distances and their price depends on how much it costs to ship. This “centralized” approach to our daily needs is flawed and is already failing, as it is based on non-renewable resources, planned obsolescence and unsustainable growth.
However, society as a whole, is slowly moving towards a relocalization paradigm, even if many in industry fail to recognize it, or actively oppose it. We see this in our grocery stores with the ever-expanding range of local organic produce; Or in the increase in vibrant Farmer’s Markets and in the creative ingenuity of many of our rural citizens.
Our society has grown up around the paradigm of cheap energy and rapid mobility. This is changing no matter what anyone feels about it one way or the other. The Grange can either accept this changing paradigm, and indeed become a major player and even leader in rural communities. Or we can continue support the promise of a past that no longer has a future. Many of us plan the be a part of the change.”
It will be interesting to see what the history of the Grange will show ten years from now and to know what role the Lummi Island Grange played. One thing for certain, the Lummi Island Grange is crucial to community life on the island. The many current Lummi Island Grange programs are explained and listed on the website www.lummigrange.com. Islanders should know that the local Grange doesn’t own the building. If the local Grange were to fail the property would revert to the State Grange and be lost to the island. Clearly, it is very important for the Lummi Island Grange to add members, particularly younger members, and continue its role to energize the community.