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Whats Up in Windsor by Tina Castelli

Support your Local Grange Hall

Feb 28, 2018
by Tina Castelli

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I recently joined the Windsor Grange and I am so glad I did. My parents are farmers, my Mom grew up on a farm in Iowa, and I manage a farmers market, why hadn’t I learned more about my local grange before now? I knew it was an old organization and it involved agriculture, but I had no idea of the traditions and the wonderful people I would meet. I love history and the story of Grange Halls, officially called, National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry is quite interesting. The Grange was founded after the Civil War when President Andrew Johnson hired a man named Oliver Kelley to inspect agricultural conditions in the defeated South. Kelley had a hard time getting along with southern farmers who didn’t trust Northerners until they learned he was a Mason. The Southern Masons took him through the South and he was shocked to see the outdated farming techniques. He felt farming could bring the North and South together, sharing ideas and practices and an organization was born. The first Grange was born in 1868 in Fredonia, NY #1. The word Grange is derived from the Latin word, grain or generically means farmer.

The Grange is the oldest American agricultural support group.
Based on Oliver Kelley’s experience with Freemasonry he and other founders formed it as a fraternal organization and adapted many of its rituals and symbols like secret meetings, oaths and passwords. The ceremony that inducted me into the Grange included the ceremonial farm tools – a Shepherds hook, another hook they said was for tree limb pruning and a tool shaped with a V on top that was for pulling weeds. We walked through the hall in a specific pattern around these farm implements. The Master (president) told us about the history of the Grange and then whispered the secret word into our ear and we were officially Grange members.

Being a woman, it was even cooler when I found out that the Grange was the first organization to recognize the importance of women. Oliver Kelley founded the first Grange with seven men and one woman, his daughter. The organization encouraged women and anyone old enough to draw a plow to participate. Eventually the importance of women grew and it was required that four of the elected officer positions could only be held by women. Oliver sent paid agents all over the country and the Grange grew to 850,000 members by 1875. As Granges grew rapidly so did their funding and they formed cooperatives. The first coops were supplied by wholesaler, Aaron Montgomery Ward, recognize that name?

In the beginning the Grange helped regulate rates charged by railroads and grain warehouses. It started the Cooperative Extension Service, Rural Free Delivery, the Farm Credit System and endorsed the beginning of direct election of Senators and votes for women, all things still in use today. Sad to report that Grange membership has fallen over the years because American farmers have gone from a third of the population in the early 1900’s to less than 2% today. The Grange today continues to lobby in Washington for farmers free trade and farm policy. They are a non-partisan organization and only support policies, never political parties.

The first Grange Hall in Sonoma County was the one in Bennett Valley formed in 1873.

The Windsor Grange #410 was founded in 1932 and their goal is to bring about a strong, common sense of community, everyone is welcome. They meet the third Thursday of the month and after the meeting share a potluck meal, a presentation and conversation. The Windsor Grange Hall is available for rentals and has a beautiful commercial kitchen, wood floors and tables and chairs included in rental price.

Visit their website at windsorgrange410.org for more information.

The original Grange motto still rings true for me today,

“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity”. Thank you to the Windsor Grange for welcoming me.

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