National Grange Master Ed Luttrell was the guest of honor at the 141st session of the New York State Grange held Oct. 19-23.
The message of Luttrell’s address to delegates was “courage,” including the need to have the courage to listen to others, especially those with whom you disagree with, and being civil enough to remain friends even after disagreements.
Patrick Hooker, New York’s deputy secretary for food and agriculture, was the highlighted speaker of legislative issues. Hooker spoke of the advances made for agriculture in the state, focusing on the Greek yogurt industry. Milk production potential and the nearness of major markets was crucial in enticing the Greek yogurt industry to New York, Hooker said. Using byproducts from yogurt production, anaerobic digesters have become a growing source of energy production for New York farms.
Wine, beer and spirits are other growing industries. These industries have helped agriculture by increasing demand for grapes, hops and malt barley, Hooker said. The legalization of small brewing in the state requires component products be grown in New York.
Hooker said he is very optimistic about the health of agriculture in the state.
Steve McLaughlin, assemblyman from the Albany area, was the keynote speaker at the opening banquet of the session. McLaughlin said he is impressed with Grange ethics embodied in the “American Values, Hometown Roots” concept. He commented on the value agriculture brings to the state and the need for a stronger voice for the upstate area.
Sen. Celia Tkaczyk, D-Albany, also addressed the delegates. Tkaczyk grew up on a dairy farm in New Jersey and is thankful of her agriculture roots. Although not a Grange member, she was active in 4-H. She stressed that Grange should be “proud of its voice for rural schools” and its “connection to children in rural areas.”
Donald and Susan Drake were the winners of the coveted Gerald Eastman Award. The award is presented annually to an individual or couple who exemplify Christian principles and influence others in a positive way.
Donald Drake’s professional career includes teaching, being a school administrator, and involvement with Pathfinder Village, a school for individuals with Down syndrome. Susan Drake has dedicated herself to service, especially at the Clara Welch Thanksgiving Home. She has tended to the physical and spiritual needs of others. Both are active in their community through the Grange, having served as officers at the local, county and state levels.
This year’s top Grange in Community Service is the Butternut Valley Grange. Butternut Valley Grange is one of the largest in the state. Some of their projects include a Halloween party for area children, benefit dinner for local food pantries, assisting with flood disaster response in a neighboring county, Christmas party for people who are alone during the holiday season, roadside cleanup, graduation awards and dictionary donation for three local schools.
Their Grange Hall is on the historic register and along with the rest of the community, did $30,000 worth of restoration to the building. Their Grange also has an historic “painted curtain” which was restored.
Anna Ritchey, also of Butternut Valley Grange, was the recipient of the Sally Benson Award for outstanding public meeting presentation.