Over the week of June 20, the Oregon State Grange held it’s annual Convention in the Southwest Oregon community of Roseburg. Here, the Silverton Grange has decided to let itself be known to those involved in State and National Grange legislative policy. What follows is our letter, as a local Grange, in regards to current legislative policy trends.
Many of us in the Silverton Grange became involved at the urging of several friends and neighbors. To be quite honest, most of us had no clue what the Grange as an organization represented. However, once we researched the roots of the Grange movement in the latter half of the nineteenth century, our interest was piqued. Everything the Grange stood for: Support of local agriculture and industry, community cooperatives, sustainability, are all principles that we have tried to live by. It is extremely refreshing to be a part of a greater community of folks interested in the same community goals.
However lately we have been receiving “legislative alerts” and similar communications from the State and National Grange organizations, urging us to move against many of the same principles many of us were attracted to in the first place. Whether it is siding with multinational chemical companies like Monsanto that force their patented seeds on the world, or “advising us” to contact our elected officials to oppose sensible legislation, geared to addressing renewable energy and climate change.
Frankly, we have taken the tact of advising our members to simply do the opposite of what the State or National “Legislative Policy” experts advise. Meanwhile, Grange memberships Nation-wide continue to dwindle, and more vacant Grange Halls are sold to land developers.
What happened to the support for local Farmers and the communities they serve? Are they not more important to the core Grange base than the likes of monopolistic multinational corporations? And is that not one of the initial sparks that ignited the Grange movement in the first place? The corporate monopolies and their middlemen?
The Grange as an organization, needs to focus on relocalization of the rural economy. The coming years will see increased energy costs, which will dramatically affect the cost of most of our commodities, as most goods are produced and shipped vast distances and their price depends on how much it costs to ship. This “centralized” approached to our daily needs is flawed and is already failing, as it is based on non-renewable resources, planned obsolescence and unsustainable growth.
However, society as a whole, is slowly moving towards a relocalization paradigm, even if many in industry fail to recognize it, or actively oppose it. We see this in our grocery stores with the ever-expanding range of local organic produce; Or in the increase in vibrant Farmer’s Markets and in the creative ingenuity of many of our rural citizens.
Our society has grown up around the paradigm of cheap energy and rapid mobility. This is changing no matter what anyone feels about it one way or the other. The Grange can either accept this changing paradigm, and indeed become a major player and even leader in rural communities. Or we can continue support the promise of a past that no longer has a future. Many of us plan the be a part of the change.
Gus Frederick, Lecturer Silverton Grange No. 748 Silverton, Oregon