Granges Nurture Hometown Roots

4/6/2013 7:00 AM
By Lorraine Merrill New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner

April is National Grange Month, and the Grange revival continues in communities around New Hampshire as people seek to reconnect with their rural roots.

The Peterborough Grange celebrates its fifth birthday this month. Two more Granges have been chartered since 2010 — Hinsdale Grange No. 358 and, just this past month, Manchester Community Grange No. 359 in Manchester, according to Rep. Dick Patten of Concord, state Grange historian and past state master.

“We have been approached about re-organizing Granges in Chester, Pittsfield, Claremont and Stratford,” Patten said. “On our own we are attempting an organization in the Lancaster area.”

Some local Granges still struggle with dwindling numbers. But others are active, thriving organizations. Walpole Grange counts 60 members, Wingold Grange in East Kingston has 69, and Rochester 53. Colebrook counts 50.

Danbury’s Blazing Star Grange will host the last of its popular winter farmers markets of the season on April 6. Hot breakfasts and lunches are offered at the markets.

Patten is most proud of the current project to resurrect the Capital Grange at the State House.

“I realize members of the Legislature are busy people who attend long meetings during the day and night,” he said. “If we can organize a Grange right at the State House it would give our busy members an opportunity to attend Grange but on their schedule.”

There was a Capital Grange in New Hampshire until it was dissolved during World War II, said Rep. Bob Haefner of Hudson, who is a member of the Hudson Grange and also heads the state Grange’s agriculture department. The group has attracted 14 members from various subordinate Granges around the state, and several more have expressed interest.

“It is open to any Granger in the House, Senate and Executive Council, and employees of the State House. I guess it is open to the governor, too,” Haefner said. The group will also invite non-Grangers to join.

Patten and Haefner are also working to reconnect the Grange in New Hampshire more closely with agriculture, the historic focus and a key part of the mission of the Grange — the Patrons of Husbandry. They hope more farmers and others interested in agriculture will become Grangers, and they are working to make the Grange a stronger advocate for agriculture and rural interests at the state and local levels. More outreach to the farming community is planned for the coming months.

Part of the National Grange mission statement is that the Grange “ fosters preservation of our rural heritage with the goal of improving the quality and enjoyment of the lives of all present and future members.”

Watch for lots more Grange activity as New Hampshire gears up to host the 2013 National Grange Convention at the Manchester Radisson in November. To learn more or find a local Grange, visit http://www.nhgrange.org/home/.

Lamb Market Crash

Unity sheep producer Jozi Best reported that the March 19 snowstorm that canceled our Agriculture Day festivities also wreaked havoc with the Easter lamb market in the region.

She said the Tuesday two weeks before the holiday is normally the peak-pricing day to sell the 30- to 45-pound lambs prized for Easter feasting. The storm stopped the movement of lambs to market, and then so many lambs were sent this past Tuesday, the week before Easter, that the packing houses were swamped with more sheep than they could handle.

Best brought three choice lambs to the Northampton market, only to be greeted with suggestions that she turn around and take her lambs home because the market had crashed. Instead of the $3 per pound lambs have been bringing since last fall, they were selling for 80 cents.

Market prices are expected to recover for Greek Orthodox Easter, which is May 5 this year.

Lorraine Merrill is commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food.


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