April is Grange Month and membership is encouraged

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Fri., Apr. 8, 2011
Ashford Grange meets at Knowlton Hall. Photo by Lauri Voter.
Ashford Grange meets at Knowlton Hall. Photo by Lauri Voter.

April is Grange Month, and this year's theme is “Connecting Communities through Service.” The Connecticut State Grange, which is located in Glastonbury, structures its granges in five levels - Junior, Subordinate, Pomona, State and National. On Oct. 23, 2010, a new president, Jody Cameron, was elected to the Connecticut State Grange.

According to Cameron, “everything starts in the community grange. You cannot have a higher level grange without the individual level grange.”

Cameron said he plans to visit local granges, including Ashford and Stafford, which each host a subordinate grange.

The Stafford Grange was originally organized in 1874, and then reorganized in 1887. Grange members meet at 7 p.m. in the Grange Hall, located at 216 East St. (Route 19) in Stafford, on the third Tuesday of each month. Myron Avery is the chapter's president.

The Ashford Grange was first organized in 1888, then reorganized in 1907. The Ashford Grange meets at 2 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month at Knowlton Memorial VFW Hall on Route 44 in the Warrenville section of Ashford. Thomas Wilson is president of the Ashford Grange.

“Originally, the grange was organized in 1867 after the Civil War, to reunite the North and South through agricultural cooperatives. The grange has diversified at the same rate as agriculture has. The grange today is still agriculturally-based, but it is primarily a community service organization,” Cameron explained.

Wilson concurred by adding that grange members “started out at trying to improve the way of life and the business for farmers and agricultural businesses, and over the years it's transformed itself into more of a community service organization.”

Wilson said that granges are still very involved in agriculture to preserve farmland and forest land, “but with the decline of the family farms, especially in areas such as here in Ashford, and other towns around the country, some of us have put more of a focus on doing things around the community. Some of our grangers are donating dictionaries to students in certain schools.”

According to Wilson, the Ashford Grange has several long-term members, but overall, grange membership is in decline.

“We're trying to schedule a meeting to pass out certificates to people who have been in the grange for 50 years,” Wilson said, but also explained that “our particular grange has been dwindling. We haven't been very successful at attracting new members, and many of the members have passed away. Lately, we haven't had so many youth. It's a little difficult with everything else going on in their lives.”

However, the Connecticut State Grange is trying to address that situation.

“The Connecticut Grange is more than willing to help out with membership levels. The state master [president] has been in contact with us. He will visit us to give us details about programs available,” Wilson explained.

“Ashford Grange is working with a grange growth team with the State Grange to develop plans to build their membership. I'm very pleased with the fact that the leadership in Ashford wants to work with the State Grange,” Cameron said, adding that “with the interest of the media, it's going to make grange growth much easier.”

Anyone who is interested in joining the Ashford Grange or who wants to learn more about it should contact Thomas Wilson at 860-429-0373.

The Connecticut State Grange will host an online chat on April 27 at 7 p.m., when grange-related items will be addressed such as ritual, agricultural and legislative initiatives, as well as grange events. Guests can sign-in anonymously or by using their names. To participate, go to www.CTStateGrange.org/GrangeChat.

Detailed information about the Connecticut State Grange is available at www.ctstategrange.org.

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