It’s campaign season, are you ready?

It’s fair season across the United States as Grangers participate in local, county or state fairs. For Grange youth who have not had their fair yet, they will be helping with local Grange displays, helping at the Grange food booth, or possibly entering some of their best projects and livestock for judging.

Grangers have utilized fairs as a way to promote the work of the Grange and to encourage others to join the organization. However, Grangers are not the only folks using the fair as a promotional tool. People seeking office will as well. Fairs are an easy way to reach rural communities. They will shake hands, participate in fair contests and share their connection back to the farm.

This week, the Associated Press talked about the phenomenon. The story is follows.

Charlene Shupp Espenshade, National Grange Youth Director

 

Pigs, cows and votes: Candidates try for farm cred

CATHERINE LUCEY

Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — For candidates in the Midwest, almost nothing tops a photo opportunity with a barnyard animal or a colorful anecdote about life on the farm.

Take Mary Burke, a former business executive running as a Democrat for governor in Wisconsin, who recently paused to check out the cows at a county fair. Or Illinois venture capitalist Bruce Rauner, who talks about his dairy farmer grandfather as a role model in his Republican bid for governor. And then there is Iowa U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst, a Republican who gained national attention with an ad touting her hog castration skills.

Most voters in these states don’t work on farms. Most candidates don’t either. But many of those seeking office seem to be stretching farther than ever for a barnyard background to establish some common-man authenticity.

“It’s the classic ‘I grew up in a log cabin and walked uphill to school both ways,’” said Sue Dvorksy, a former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.

Sometimes the connection requires a bit of tractor-pulling effort.

Rauner is a millionaire with two Ivy League degrees, but his official biography stresses that thanks to granddad: “Bruce knew how to ride a horse at 6, milk a cow at 8, and shoot a rifle at 10.” Burke’s main selling point is her successes with the family bicycle company, but a key photo on her website shows her in a denim shirt in front of a tractor.

Recently in Iowa, both the governor and lieutenant governor, who do have rural backgrounds, felt the need to also assert their animal slaughter resumes.

“I held the hogs while the veterinarian castrated it,” Gov. Terry Branstad said at a June news conference.

Then Lt. Gov. Kim Reynold chimed in: “I didn’t castrate hogs, but I do know how to skin a chicken and I can do that pretty well.”

So far, they have not demonstrated those skills on the campaign trail.

Nowhere is a rural record more desirable than Iowa, a state with strong farming roots even though two-thirds of the population lives in urban areas. Candidates here trek around farms, gobble pie at state fairs and talk farm subsidies. While Ernst’s ad became fodder for late-night comedy, it also struck a chord that helped propel the state lawmaker to victory in the five-way GOP primary.

“The great thing about Joni’s ad is people relate to her,” said Rob Jesmer, a Republican consultant.

Ernst, a lieutenant colonel in the Iowa National Guard who was raised on a farm, now faces Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in the battle to replace retiring Sen. Tom Harkin. The two are locked in a dead heat, and Ernst’s campaign has tried to brand Braley as a lawyer who doesn’t understand rural issues.

Braley’s campaign has countered that he was raised in a small town, his grandfather was a farmer and he worked agricultural jobs in his youth. But he spent time apologizing earlier this year after a video was released of him referring to senior Sen. Charles Grassley, a six-term Republican, as a “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law.”

Since then, Republican operatives have tried to hit Braley with a video they say shows him claiming to be a farmer at a parade and with a story on a dispute he had with a neighbor at his vacation community over her chickens.

“Bruce understands what rural Iowa is all about because that’s where he came from,” said Braley campaign spokesman Jeff Giertz.

Candidates in nearby states are also reaching for rural connections.

In Nebraska, Republican Pete Ricketts selected Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann as his running mate in the governor’s race, citing his dairy farming experience. His Democratic opponent, Chuck Hassebrook, has touted the fact that he lives in a rural town.

And in Wisconsin, Burke cites her ancestors as she seeks to topple Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“My great-grandparents were farmers,” said the former Trek Bicycle executive as she pet cows at the Rock County fair.

The candidates must be careful not to overreach. Of Rauner, Ken Snyder, a Chicago-based Democratic media consultant, notes: “everybody knows he didn’t make $53 million last year as a farmer.”

Rauner’s spokesman, Mike Schrimpf, said the candidate just wants voters to know “what guided his life.”

To the folks actually raising hogs, the fixation with farming may not be a bad thing, said Chris Peterson, a lifelong famer from Clear Lake, Iowa.

Since candidates “pander to everybody,” he said, “I’m glad they’re remembering us whichever way possible.”

___ Associated Press writer Thomas Beaumont contributed to this report.

 

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Tie Dye – A Grange Activity for the Ages

Tie Dye is something that has come in and out of style through the decades. Just when I think its out, it comes back again. The first time I completed a tie dye project was in art class in middle school. The teacher had multiple vats of dye for the students to dip their rubber-banned shirts into. Same again in 4-H.

Today, there are kits and multiple ideas on how to tie dye shirts. It’s actually a great activity for Grange youth and juniors. First, the kits give plenty of ideas on how to dye shirts. And, many use spray bottles or squeeze bottles to apply the dye. The benefit is you can leave the shirts absorb more of the dye to make more vibrant colors.

You can pick up a kit at Wal-Mart or a local craft store. Many offer larger kits for groups. Or go old school and purchase Rit dye, fill containers with the needed tye and water mixture. Go wild.

Need pattern ideas- check out ideas on Pintrest, Youtube, or through a Google search. It also can go beyond a basic t-shirt. Or for a twist, instead of plain white shirts, make Grange shirts that can be dyed.

Check out ideas and share your tie-dye creations on our Facebook page.

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Freeda’s Findings: Summertime fun

Freeda the Mouse. The official mascot of the National Grange Youth Department.

Freeda the Mouse. The official mascot of the National Grange Youth Department.

Summer is here. What events does your Grange have organized to make this summer memorable? Will your Pomona Grange have a picnic? Or is your local Grange planning for a night at the ballpark? For a youth event – will you host an outdoor movie night or play a round of miniature golf? Or organize a homemade ice cream fundraiser?

If there is one thing summer brings, it’s a time to kick back, have fun and enjoy time with your fellow Grangers.

I am packing my bags for several regional youth and leadership conferences. I hope to see many of you in Texas, Indiana, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Montana!

 

Until next time,

– Freeda

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Searching for Inspiration? Ideas for Vespers

campfire

If you have ever been tapped to organize a vespers service or Sunday morning inspirational pause, it can either be easy or a challenge.

These are important because they allow a calming point in the day, allowing for reflection, connection of the campers, creating memories, and reinforcement of what connects Grangers together.

With some preplanning, inspiration programs can create a meaningful experience for all involved. Many times, youth ambassadors, young couples are asked to organize these events or the state Grange chaplain. However if you find yourself in charge, here are some helpful tips from the Montana 4-H’s Survival Guide for 4-H Camp Leaders.

(For a full copy, go here: http://montana4h.org/#resource:Support_Materials, click on Camp Survival Guide for pdf of the booklet.)

Hopefully, these tips can help you along.

Tips for Planning Inspirational Programs

1. You can use humor and set a light mood with meaning but be careful not to let laughter take over. It is easier to make someone cry than to make them laugh.

2. Vespers do not have to occur at a specific vesper site. The space needs to be big enough for everyone to see, hear and stand or sit comfortably. Distractions give campers a perfect excuse to be distracted.

3. Make content developmentally appropriate.

4. Involve as many campers as possible. If only a few can be readers, the rest can lead a song or give leadership to special activities.

5. Call on other leaders to assist – their leadership can be of great help. If you are doing something unusual, review it at your leader meetings.

6. Have other leaders scattered throughout the campers – a gentle tap on the back or arm can remind campers to be quiet or, a leader can also slide in quietly and sit between two rowdy campers.

7. If you have a standard tradition for going/coming to vespers, review it with the campers.

For example – When campers (in pairs) get to the bridge it is a signal to get quiet, remove hats and remain quiet till you return to the bridge on the way back.

Leaders can assist – station them to guide campers and reinforce appropriate behavior.

8. Utilize the special talents of campers – a singer, a dancer, someone who knows sign language. Words are not essential to impart meaning to the ceremony.

9. Words and music are the most common methods of inspiration. A better way to show the beauty of nature may to have a few minutes of silence to allow campers to reflect and “discover.”

10. Be creative!!! You may want to use different types of drama such as plays, or role playing.

11. Be prepared for rainy days (alternate dry locations need to be determined ahead of time).

12. For group singing, select familiar songs so that song sheets are unnecessary.

13. Seat campers close together.

14. Pre-vesper music creates the mood. (CD player or digital music docking station)

15. You may want your first vesper program for younger camps to be conducted by leaders so campers will understand what is expected of them.

16. Use a small portable microphone – it helps little voices be heard and keeps the group engaged.

17. Work with other groups – if you leave the flag ceremony to go to vespers, have the flag group assist. Ask song leaders to teach or practice a particular song you want to use.

18. Help prepare campers for these activities – allow them time to get a coat if going to candlelighting, make sure they have mosquito repellent or take some other appropriate action.

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Freeda’s Findings: The Value of One Member

Freeda the Mouse. The official mascot of the National Grange Youth Department.

Freeda the Mouse. The official mascot of the National Grange Youth Department.

Greetings Grangers! I hope you all had a great Grange Month, promoting our organization and working on your youth and young adult programs. I was looking through Charlene’s Grange files and came across this poem written by a Granger as a reminder on the power, or value, of one Granger to changing their Grange.

The Value Of One Member

Ten little Grangers standing in a line. One disliked the Master, then there were nine.

Nine ambitious Grangers offered to work late. One forgot her promise, and then there were eight.

Eight creative Grangers had ideas good as heaven. One lost enthusiasm, then there were seven.

Seven loyal Grangers got into a fix. They quarreled over projects, then there were six.

Six Grangers still remained with spirit and drive. One moved away, then there were five.

Five steadfast Grangers wished that there were more. One became indifferent, then there were four.

Four cheerful Grangers who never disagree, ‘til one complained of meetings, then there were three.

Three eager Grangers, what do they do? One got discouraged, then there were two.

Two lonely Grangers, our rhyme is nearly done. One joined a pep team and then there was one.

One faithful Granger was feeling rather blue, met with a neighbor, and then there were two.

Two earnest Grangers each enrolled one more, doubling their number, then there were four.

Four determined Grangers, just couldn’t wait, ‘til each one won another, then there were eight.

Eight excited Grangers signed up sixteen more. In six more verses, there’ll be a thousand twenty-four!!

– Author Unknown

So have you asked a friend to come to a Grange event? Or helped to develop a new Grange project to impact your community? If so, please let me know – I’d love you to hear your story.Until next time,

 

Freeda

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Guest Blog: Increasing the Yields of Our Labors

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Michigan State Master Chris Johnston for this post. This first appeared as part of his Master’s Column in the Michigan State Grange’s newsletter, Michigan Grange News.  

“Since God placed man on earth, agriculture has existed. There is no occupation that precedes it, no order or association that can rank with the tillers of the soil.” Yesterday I spent some time driving around the state and it was made very apparent that farmers throughout southeast Michigan were very content and anxious to be once again doing what they do best and tilling the brown soil from which life is sustained.

It makes me happy to see that the teachings and lessons of our ritual has been made part of the daily life of the agricultural world. For many years in the beginning of the Grange, we not only worked towards the betterment of rural life, but also for the betterment of production practices. What has now become common to find local farmers around a table drinking coffee in small town America used to be the Grange meetings, where farmers would come to once or twice a month and talk about how they have found a way to increase their yields.
It has now become the duty of Grange members to work towards increasing the yields of our labors. Whether it be through community service projects or through our legislative connections we have built over the last 140-plus years. While we continue to have a very strong interest in agriculture, we have morphed into an entity larger than just agriculture. We now have taken on such tasks as pushing for the advancement of the 21st century in ways such as broadband internet access to not only the urban but also the rural areas of the country.

As we continue to work with the legislature to provide the means necessary to accomplish this goal we are, in effect, working towards the betterment of rural America. Since the internet is now used in many agricultural aspects such as directing the farmers in the best way for planting to increase yield, allowing a farmer to have just a portion of a field fertilized as opposed to just blanket fertilizing the entire field. Thus saving money for the farmer and saving money for the consumer.
With spring in the air and the essence of agriculture all around us, this is an excellent time to refresh our membership of our ritual through the exemplification of the degree work.

 

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Grange Youth Camp Ideas

Youth Camp is one of the most popular events for our youth members. And, it’s a challenge to come up with new ideas for activities for these schedules. There are some tried and true events, friendship circles, campfires and s’mores. But here are some activity ideas from my Pintrest finds and other resources that might provide a unique twist on programing.

m&m get aquainted game

M&M game theme ideas

M&M get acquainted game: Pass around a bag of M&Ms and have everyone grab a handful of candies. Then, for each M&M, based on its color, they have to share something with the group. A good idea if you are limited in space or have a quiet group. You can come up with your own topics for each color or use the ideas in the photo in this post.

Sign language alphabet quotes: Looking for a deaf awareness/sign language activity for your schedule? This website has several alphabet sign language quote worksheets. The youth identify the sign to crack the code of the quote. They can be downloaded here: http://www.education.com/worksheet/article/sign-language-practice-9/. Just note, you will need to sign in with Facebook or make a sign in to download the sheets.

glow in the dark bowling

Glow in the Dark Bowling

Glow in the Dark Bowling: Fill 10 2- liter bottles with water. Activate 10 glow sticks and place them in the bottles of water to make the glow in the dark pins. Use a soccer ball to “bowl.” If the pins are too hard to roll over, fill only halfway.

Recycled crafts idea: This posting shows more than 20 items that can be made from a cereal box. http://www.buzzfeed.com/pippa/cereal-box-diys-5ocb?sub=2496890_1478682 Several ideas are pretty simple to do, others could be achieved with additional planning.

Agriculture activities: Utilize members of your local extension office to lead an agriculture-themed activity. Master Gardners can teach basic gardening tips. Or tour a nearby farm to learn more about how they operate and their related industries.

Social Media Safety: Invite someone from your attorney general’s office to speak about personal safety when using social media. These topics include privacy tips and to think before posting.

Organize a “Fuel Up to Play 60” event. Fuel Up to Play 60 is a dairy checkoff program that ties into the “Play 60” program of the NFL. The concept is to target the message of eating healthy and playing outside for 60 minutes per day. Local checkoff programs could provide supplies and activity ideas. To find your local dairy checkoff program work with a dairy farmer Grange member or find your local program here: http://www.dairy.org/local-checkoff  To learn more about “Fuel Up to Play 60” go here: http://fueluptoplay60.com/

Pool Noodle “Olympics” Use pool noodles to create obstacle courses. It’s amazing what you can make with some creativity, pool noodles and other basic supplies.To learn more go here:

rings

Pool Ring Olympics

http://www.parents.com/fun/activities/outdoor/pool-noodle-backyard-games/?page=5

Also, don’t forget to use the achievement award programs in the youth handbook. Activities could assist members with earning seals.

Have a great youth activity/idea – please share with Charlene Shupp Espenshade at youth@nationalgrange.org.

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The $50 Scholarship That Changed My Life

Matt Espenshade

Matt Espenshade

Matt Espenshade

Elizabethtown Area Grange Master

Fifty dollars. Most of us don’t think twice about spending that much money for a new pair of blue jeans or a nice dinner date. However, I can honestly say that a mere $50 changed my life completely.

My name is Matt Espenshade, and I am proud to be a member of Elizabethtown Grange #2076, in Lancaster County (Pa.). It has been a blessing to be surrounded by such a supportive group and to have some of the finest mentors I could ever hope for. The members of my subordinate Grange have allowed me to serve as their Master for the past 14 years, and together, we have accomplished so much. However, I know that the brightest days, for both Elizabethtown and the Grange as a whole, are yet to come.

For many years, one of my favorite duties as Master of Elizabethtown Grange was to present the Outstanding Senior in Agricultural Education scholarship at the local high school awards program. Each year, our Grange gives a $500 scholarship to a college-bound senior in recognition of that student’s dedication to studies in agriculturally related fields.

In 1991, I was at the awards program. Not as a presenter, however, but as a senior in high school. The local Grange presented me with a $50 savings bond for being the top ag student of the graduating class. Being recognized by an agricultural organization was very meaningful to me. I sent them a thank you note, but didn’t give it much thought after that. I was off to college!

The four years went by fast. I had become heavily involved with activities in college, such as Dairy Science Club and Alpha Zeta Fraternity.

After I returned home from college, I felt a “social emptiness” inside. I spent the summer months trying to get involved in different things. I became a local 4-H leader, although I had no previous 4-H experience. But it didn’t take long before I realized that what I missed was the family atmosphere of my college fraternity. Being together with people that shared common interests and background was what I was missing. The friendships I made there I knew I’d hold on to for the rest of my life. Where could I ever meet friends like that again?

In late August 1995, during the Elizabethtown Fair, I passed by a milkshake stand staffed by the local Grange, and I remembered the scholarship they had given me. I spoke for a while with a lady working there that evening and she encouraged me to come to an upcoming meeting. I attended my first meeting in October of 1995 and I’ve been hooked ever since. I was welcomed in with open arms, and one lady in particular, Anna Snook, “took me under her wing” and explained different aspects of the organization to me. I know it was because of her kindness that I stayed interested in learning more about this “Grange stuff”.

In time, I realized this was more than just a club or social group. It was truly a fraternal organization. Everyone called each other “Brother” or “Sister”, and it really felt like an extended family. It was what I needed, and I jumped in, head first. In less than three months, I went from literally a guy off the street to a member in the 7th degree!

When the time came to elect officers, I was nominated and was given my first office, Overseer. Talk about learning on the fly!  But again, the support I was given made it seem easy. In 2000, I was elected to serve as just the third Master in the history of Elizabethtown Grange.

Over the years, our Grange has changed a lot. When I first joined, meetings were held around scattered tables. Now, when we don’t set up for the full ritualistic opening, it just doesn’t “feel right”. Our group has focused on teaching area children about the importance of agriculture and our rural communities through poster and coloring contests. Also, that senior scholarship that was a $50 savings bond is now a check for $500.

If you are looking for a way to promote the study of agriculture in your local schools and increase visibility of the Grange in your community, you may want to consider presenting a scholarship to a deserving senior about to go on to college. I’m sure your local school’s guidance councilor or FFA adviser would be pleased to work with you on setting up an award. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of money either. Having gone off to college, I know first hand that every little bit helps.

It has been almost 20 years since I joined Grange. I still have the copy of my first Grange Knowledge Test from Pennsylvania State Grange Youth Camp, on which I scored a 24 out of 100, and that was with a lot of “help” from the people at my table. But I’ve learned a lot over the years, whereas by the time I aged-out of the youth program, I would consistently score 90-plus points on a knowledge test about our organization that would make many Grangers cry.

This organization has given me so much, and I am deeply grateful for that. Of course, I’d be amiss if I did not mention the fact that I got to know my future wife, Charlene Shupp Espenshade, through Grange. Charlene had moved to Elizabethtown from Tunkhannock, Wyoming County, for her job. Being a member of South Auburn Grange #1188, she was interested in attending the local Grange meetings while away from home. Without the Grange, the odds of us ever meeting are slim at best, let alone anything beyond that. We have been married ten years now, and Grange continues to be something we can both enjoy together.

Our youngest son turned five last September, and is a member of Elizabethtown Area Junior Grange #551.  Our oldest son is 8, and has attended State Junior Camp and other activities. They are both very excited about Junior Grange! I can only imagine the opportunities that our two sons will have as they grow up surrounded by Grange friends.

It’s been many years since I was given that Grange scholarship. Though I enjoyed making the annual presentation, this duty has been passed on to the next generation of Grange youth.  This May, Deidra Bollinger, an Elizabethtown Grange youth member, will again handle this responsibility. She too was looking for a way to be involved in the community after high school, and has found our Grange to be a great fit. Today, Deidra serves as our Lecturer. A previous winner of our scholarship, Cassidy Cheddar, is the Pennsylvania State Grange Youth Ambassador, and an active member of Penn State Collegiate Grange #2105. In recent years, four of our scholarship winners have either joined or were members of the Grange at the time.  Each of these youth has a bright future ahead of them in our organization.

When you think about it, what brought me to the Grange wasn’t a fancy presentation or a tri-color pamphlet; it was that simple $50 scholarship. That scholarship perked my interest in this organization and eventually opened the doors to a new family of friends. Joining Grange has been one of the best decisions in my life.

Of course, I still kid the Elizabethtown Grange members that maybe someday they’ll get their money’s worth out of me!

Editor’s Note: Matt Espenshade is the husband of Charlene Shupp Espenshade, National Grange Youth Director. Matt is a dairy farmer and served with Charlene as the Pennsylvania State Grange Young Couple for two terms.

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Freeda Findings: Counting down to Grange Month

Freeda the Mouse. The official mascot of the National Grange Youth Department.

Freeda the Mouse. The official mascot of the National Grange Youth Department.

If you have not noticed, we are two weeks from the kickoff of Grange month. Charlene and I have been brainstorming about what makes people want to join Grange. Looking at our own experiences with the organization, we think it’s the people that draw people to join a Grange.

To celebrate, we are looking to feature stories from Grange youth, young adults and program alumni about why they love being a Granger or their best Grange youth memory or favorite activities. Pen your thoughts, share some photos and send it to youth@nationalgrange.org.

We look forward to hearing from the Grange herd or Grangers about what they love so much about our organization as we gear up for our April celebration.

Until next time,

Freeda

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Finding what you love, and using your voice

Charlene Espenshade pictured with Greg Peterson of the Peterson Farm Bros.

Charlene Espenshade pictured with Greg Peterson of the Peterson Farm Bros.

I had the unique experience to meet Greg Peterson from the Peterson Bros. this past weekend. In case you are wondering who is Greg Peterson, he’s one of the trio of brothers who produced a viral video called, “I’m Farming and I Know It” based off the hit song, I’m Sexy and I Know It by LMFAO.

Peterson spoke at the Pennsylvania Holstein Association’s banquet in State College, Pa. on Friday, Feb. 28. Armed with just a basic video camera and some simple recording equipment, they crafted the video during wheat harvest on their Kansas farm. Peterson said the first scene they filmed was at 6 a.m. one morning of them walking through a wheat field. After that shot, the boys decided they wanted to film an “epic” video. They joked that wouldn’t it be great if we could reach 50,000 hits on You Tube. The result was far greater than they could imagine. Today, it has more than 9 million views.

By the second day after posting the finished product, they started getting local attention, with an interview by the local newspaper who had heard the buzz around town about the video they did. The third day, they got started their work day finding all of the local news media vans in their farm driveway asking for interviews. This was followed by a call from Fox News asking them to come to New York City to appear the next morning at their studios to talk about the video. All the while, the video has climbed to several million views. They worked with their dad to find people to cover their work as they traveled to New York City for the day. The madness was topped by interviews from the Associated Press and features in the LA Times, USA Today and other newspapers.

He said they never imagined what followed, but that video has been followed by other successful parodies using popular music to promote agriculture.

Peterson who majored in agriculture communications and minored in music at Kansas State said one of the keys to success with their venture was it was something they were passionate about music and agriculture. The venture has opened many opportunities for the boys as they have traveled to state, national and international conferences to speak about their project. It has also provided Peterson with a great business for a recent college graduate. He spends most of his time home at the farm working with his dad on the family’s beef and crop farm, but travels about once a week, speaking about agriculture advocacy.

What are you passionate about and how can you use those talents and passions for Grange? Connecting those two items could open doors or career opportunities for you, just like it did for the Peterson Bros.

To view their videos go to:

You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/thepetersonfarmbros

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PetersonFarmBros

 

 

— Charlene Shupp Espenshade, National Grange Youth Director

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