The Grange (Order of Patrons of Husbandry) is a national agrarian organization that is dedicated to community service. Founded in the post Civil-War era, The Grange served as a gathering place that allowed farmers the opportunity to communicate with one another and advocate for higher prices for their commodities and for fair treatment in business dealings. Since the 1800s, The Grange has expanded its scope to include farmers and non-farmers who are helping strengthen communities. The Grange has a presence in rural areas across 40 US states.
The Marys River Grange on Grange Hall Road in Philomath, Oregon was established in 1933. For generations, the grange hall was a hub for community activities involving kids, adults, and seniors. By late 2009, however, the building had fallen into disrepair, and membership was dwindling due to attrition and an aging core of grangers. The Oregon State Grange was on the verge of dissolving the group and putting the historic hall up for auction. Fortunately, Grange Hall Road is home to two wonderful businesses. John Eveland of Gathering Together Farm and Demetri Balint of Greengable Gardens rallied the troops, drawing on their employees, friends, and neighbors to boost grange membership.
Henry the Husband and I met while working at Gathering Together Farm, and though we were no longer employees, John gave us a call, encouraging us to join. We were not exactly big meeting goers or fraternal order boosters, but we decided to give it a try. Last year, the Marys River Grange gained about 50 new members including lots of young people and several families with small children (like us). The average age dropped from 60+ to about 30, and we currently have members spanning several generations. In early 2010, Trevor Storch (a new grange member and my brother in law) of Storch Construction generously donated the labor to refinish the large hemlock dance floor. After a major reorganization campaign and with a spruced up floor, we decided to host a community event to celebrate the group’s reinvigoration. Our first pancake breakfast was such a success that we agreed to make it an annual event. The 2nd Annual Marys River Grange Pancake Breakfast was held last Sunday, April 17, and again, we had a great turnout of about 200 people.
This event was made possible by the following generous donors: rhubarb and strawberries from Gathering Together Farm, table decorations and tulips for sale from Greengable Gardens, local oats and flour from Stalford Seed/A2R Farms, honey from Honey Tree Apiaries, eggs from Fritz and Beverly Lonsway.
The proceeds fromt this event will be used to make improvements to the grange hall. There is a heated debate among grange members about whether we should prioritize a bathroom upgrade or a kitchen upgrade. Both areas could use serious work, but funds are limited, so we’ll see how it all pans out.
If you’re interested, I uploaded many more photos of this event to my Flickr account (I’m new to Flickr, so there’s not a whole lot of other stuff there.).
There are granges around the country that are amazing historic buildings, some in good shape, some in shambles. I would encourage all of you to take a bit of time to seek out your local grange or community hall and see if you’d like to take part in a similar revitalization of an American tradition.