Home with the Grange

A Granger’s Lament from Petaluma Grange Lecturer Connie Madden

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Robert Digitale’s article, Sonoma County’s Granges Status in Question, left out the character and work of the California State Grange, now called CSG after a court order obtained by the National Grange, made it unable to use the common word grange.

Living at Oasis Community Farm just outside Petaluma, we’ve learned farming is tough and isolating.  To keep small and organic farms alive and kicking takes support and our grange village has stretched to Sacramento and San Luis Obispo and beyond.  But now the National Grange has disavowed the California State Grange with a court ruling that the CSG can no longer call itself a Grange and must relinquish properties.

We’ve learned while attempting to label genetically modified foods as such that Monsanto Corporation and others have so invaded our land as to threaten the integrity of organic farming altogether so we stand against that. The National Grange does not.

The Petaluma Grange has been a great alternative to doing nothing about climate change and associated tragedies.  We’ve hosted speakers from Marin Slow Food and Rafael Gardens at Rudolf Steiner Institute, from Transition US and California Farm Link.  We’ve learned how to build soil and build a farm business and have carpooled to demonstrations to ban fracking because we have a right to know what is injected into our water supply, to label GMOs because you have a right to know what is in our food, to support legalization of hemp crops, which can become car parts, building material or clothing that lasts three times longer than cotton.  Good stuff we can help do!  We were instrumental in getting the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to withdraw its attempt to raise Farmers Market fees that would have sent more farmers home.

The CSG has worked hard on these issues and other causes focused on regenerating a healthier, happier world to pass along to our children and grandchildren. We’ve addressed these onslaughts by working with a lobbyist and legislators to get hemp legalized, label GMOs, help make regulations around small farming workable for small farmers.

But with the latest challenge to the integrity of the CSG by the National Grange, much of this may be lost; I sincerely hope not!

I’ve never heard of the National Grange backing any of the causes we hold dear. Yes, they have the fraternal organization format that originally helped small farmers – but this current NG seems focused only on shutting down the good works of CSG.

Really? Why, one would logically ask.  Well, real estate could be a reason. The 165 chapters of CSG represent a lot of Grange halls  which could be sold off by the NG.

But all this is conjecture.  While I’ve been in the inner circle of Grangers here, I’ve never met with the NG leadership so all I have to go by is mildly threatening letters republished on an elist.  None of them friendly I felt; nothing at all I consider leadership toward a resilient farming community.

What a sad tale: that 10,000 members of the CSG will likely lose their Grange halls, their home away from home, because of the NG challenge.

Goodbye, then, to the CSG youth camp, the farm school, the good work with California legislators to restore our land to health and make small farming work in this state that supplies ¼ of the food for our nation.

Connie Madden blogs at Petaluma360.com and co-owns Oasis Community Farm.

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