You’re a Granger
(And you don’t even know it yet)
BY T.J. MALASKEE
Wabasso, Minn–Ask any ol’ person off the street what they know about the Grange, and three-quarters of them shrug their shoulders or stare blankly back at you. Grange-what? Some recall the word “Grange” from high school history class. A few even remember it has “something to do with farmers.”
A smaller percentage recollect a 1977 episode of Little House on the Prairie, in which William F. Claxton directed a narrative that sends Pa to Chicago for a district Grange convention. In the episode, “Times of Change,” Ma throws her arms around Pa with excessively enthusiastic elation when she learns that the Grange has elected him as their local delegate. Oh, Charles!
In Chicago, railroad-men shatter Pa’s veneration for the Grange by corrupting they the convention with soiled-doves and booze. Nevertheless, in true Michael Landon fashion, Pa gives an impassioned speech that rights the hoodwinked farmers and sets the course of American agricultural history back on track.
Of course, it’s all malarkey.
The real Charles Ingalls wasn’t a Granger (that we know of). There wasn’t a Grange in Walnut Grove (nor in North Hero Township where the Ingalls resided along Plum Creek). Moreover, just why Ma wasn’t at the Grange meeting in Walnut Grove, or why no [decent] women were present at the Chicago Grange convention, is a mystery (the Grange, from inception, is an institution that welcomes women).
What isn’t malarkey is the fact that for nearly a quarter of a million Americans, the Grange is real. These people are the literal and figurative decedents of Grange men and women who have made-and continue to make-history. The idea that farmers and rural Americans can unite with a collective voice guiding their own destinies is a tenet that rings true today.
A 100% non-partisan organization, the Grange is the champion of regulating railroad monopolies for the public good, conceptualizing and strongly advocating for the US Postal Service to institute Rural Free Mail Delivery across the country, advocating for women’s suffrage, fighting for the public land-grant college system, partnering with the Cooperative Extension Services to introduce them to rural America, and is one of the first national organization to support deaf education and tackle issues in the hard of hearing community.
Even before the first Farm Bill in 1933, the Grange had a voice in Washington DC, promoting the welfare of farm families and rural Americans. Today, the Grange continues to work with lawmakers, fighting for such issues as rural access to high-speed broadband internet, while employing one of the most well-respected and influential agricultural lobbyists in Washington DC.
The Grange is more than a lobbying organization. For nearly 150 years, the Grange has been America’s family fraternity, premier community service group and social institution for tens of thousands of hometown communities.
Walnut Grove-as of yet-has no Grange (though it may, someday). Nevertheless, the Grange continues to grow, and America’s newest Grange, Prairie Fire Grange, is blooming in the heart of Redwood County twenty-two miles from the location of Pa Ingalls’ fictitious proclamation: “Caroline, I’m goin’ t’ Grange!”
For more information on the Grange and how to join or start a Grange in your own community, email: [email protected]