HEMLOCK GROVE — Farming identity has long been central to the economics and values of southern Ohio, and the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry has advocated for these interests at a national level for more than a century.
Founded in 1867, the beginnings of Grange lie with a government surveyor charting the economically shattered post-bellum South. Beyond even the damage inflicted by the Civil War, the technological gap between farms and urban centers was immense. Driven by rural areas’ preference for human labor over innovation, agriculture after the war in both the North and South was slow to adopt the rapid advancements of science and invention of the late 1800s.
Further weakening farmers were low population and ineffective lobbying efforts relative to major cities, something reflected in proportionately less political representation. The Grange founding parties wished to mobilize residents in these areas to common benefit, and those hopes still form the bulk of the order’s principles today.
Their charter places great value on family units, agriculture lifestyles and working class unity as instrumental to community quality of life. The ability to disagree respectfully and work toward shared goals is highly emphasized in this proletarian ethic. By conglomerating the interests of the rural areas that were so critical to the nation as a whole, these “Patrons of Husbandry” hoped to give some voice and power to the people or agricultural America.
Significant legislation attributed to Grange efforts include Rural Free Delivery, the Post Office’s circa 1900 policy of including remote homesteads in postal routes. If you live outside of a decently sized village or township, you may thank the Grange that you do not pay extra for mail. But the organization’s lobbying efforts did not conclude in the 19th century, and to believe either the Grange, or farming professions, antiquated would be a serious oversight. Current efforts include focus on wireless access for rural areas.
This excerpt from their national website detailing involvement in a patent infringement case between smartphone manufacturers Apple and Samsung should put aside concerns that championing farming does not have a place in modern politics: “Rural America and the agricultural industry depend on connectivity even more than most, because our geographical location infrequently overlaps with the initial deployment and availability of new technologies, products and services. However, mobile connectivity offers and equalizing force which enables rural America to keep pace with the dynamic technology economy of today and tomorrow.”
The 150th National Grange annual convention will take place Nov. 15-19, 2016 in Herndon, Va., where they will continue their work of bringing small town, nonpartisan values to the national debate.
Grange post Hemlock Grove 2049 is an active group in Meigs County, and held their monthly meeting last week. Rosalie Story led the pledge and patriotic singing, accompanied by the county’s only chapter pianist Ann Lambert.
Event announcements included a National Inspection and the date for the annual banquet, which is slated for April 29, at 6:30 p.m. at Meigs High School cafeteria. Admission and raffle tickets may be purchased from Grange members. The raffle winner will have a chance to win a wooden bowl made of buckeye by artist Roy Grueser.
As part of April’s designation as Grange Month, lecturer Kim Romine presented on raising membership and work shopped with members afterwards.
The post lost all their records in a 1980 fire, which has hindered plans for the upcoming 150th anniversary. Chapter historian Barb Fry said they have “searched far and wide” to piece some of their chapter history back together.
In the meantime, the group focuses efforts on charity and community. Projects like collecting soup labels, pop tabs, and recycling eye glasses benefit the Columbus School for the Deaf. Closer to home, Grange offered their building to Hemlock Grove Cristian congregation in 2010 after they lost their church to arson. Now, a local group of quilters meets bi-weekly in the dining hall.
For more information of your local chapter, contact Barb Fry 740 992-5919 or visit http://www.nationalgrange.org/