10/26/2013 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Last week, Pennsylvania Grange members traveled to State College to chart a course for the coming year. It was the 141st convention for the state’s oldest agricultural fraternal organization.
More than 300 Grangers gathered at the Ramada Inn for the three-day conference.
Known for its grass-roots, nonpartisan advocacy, Grange delegates voted on a variety of issues ranging from dairy policy reform and conservation programs to health and safety.
Recognitions for outstanding community service, as well as youth and junior member achievements, were also presented to the state’s county and subordinate, or community, Granges.
Pennsylvania State Grange Master Carl Meiss presented his annual address, reviewing the work of the past year.
Several Granges were re-organized, including Penn State Collegiate Grange #2105 and Green Grove Grange #1955 of Lackawanna County. Later in the evening, Meiss presented the newly established Hawk Mountain Grange #2109 of Schuylkill with its charter.
“We continue to see a groundswell of young people interested in the Grange,” Meiss said. “We are preparing for our future success through younger, enthusiastic members.”
He praised a team of Pennsylvania youth and young adult Grangers for participating in the Oliver Hudson Kelley Farm Experience and Exemplification of the 1873 degrees this past July.
The theme for community building continued at Saturday evening’s All-Granger Banquet.
National Grange Secretary Judy Sherrod of Tennessee spoke about how Grange can have a positive impact on communities and people.
“People make decisions, but decisions make people,” she said, challenging the audience to use good judgment in their daily lives and interactions with others.
Sherrod said that Grange activities helped her to overcome her shyness as a child and find her voice.
Community Granges, she believes, make a lasting impact on the towns and townships they represent.
“Our communities would suffer if they did not have Granges,” she said. “We have got a very proud heritage, not only in service, but leadership training for our kids, legislative issues and we make a positive impact on our community.”
She said it’s important when setting goals to build a plan with intermediate steps. Tennessee State Grange has achieved a net gain in membership seven years out of the past 10. She said that her state Grange might not have the “thousands of members” of Pennsylvania, but they are taking steps in the right direction.
“I want you to set goals that are attainable and take it one rung at a time,” she said. “Take small steps like you are going up a ladder and reach your goal.”
National Grange Youth Ambassador Jimmy Smith of Washington state told his Grange story.
Growing up in the suburbs of Seattle, he was often asked why he is a Grange member when he is neither a farmer nor from a farm family.
Smith said that in his mind, it’s the people who make the difference. The common denominator of Grange membership has allowed him to meet people from various walks of life.
He said he met his best friend at Junior Grange camp when they were 8. It’s a friendship that has continued for more than a decade.
“We share that common sense of belonging, identity and family,” Smith said. “Every day, I make decisions in my life, and ultimately I can connect those decisions back to someone or some experience with the Grange. And it’s an incredible opportunity.”
Carl Meiss announced the selection of the 2013 Pennsylvania State Granger of the Year. This year’s honoree was Fae Snyder of Valley Grange #1360 in York County.
Snyder joined the Grange in 1953 according to Meiss. She has served at all levels, including the National Grange in the Assembly of Demeter and as a past first lady of the Pennsylvania State Grange.
Snyder said she met her husband, Luther, through the Grange, “and the rest is history.” Grange remains a large part of her family as all five of her children and many of her grandchildren are Grange members.
The youth celebration continued on Sunday morning with the announcement of the “Friend of the Grange Youth” award at Sunday morning’s youth department luncheon.
Matt Espenshade of Bainbridge was selected as the 2013 recipient for his continued encouragement of young Grangers and support of state Grange youth projects.
Editor’s note: Matt Espenshade is the husband of writer Charlene Shupp Espenshade.