Being Inviting and Welcoming with New Friends

Cassidy Cheddar, 2014-15 National Grange Youth Ambassador

Cassidy Cheddar, 2014-15 National Grange Youth Ambassador

Cassidy Cheddar

2014-15 National Grange Youth Ambassador

Inviting people to Grange events is important to get new members into the organization. But what happens once they say “yes”? It’s also important to follow through after you invite friends to experience the Grange.

We’ve all been the new person at something. You may know one person and other than that, you’re kind of lost. This can be an uncomfortable time for people. And if a new person is at a Grange event, they may feel this way. Part of our job as Grangers is to make everyone feel welcome.

It might be difficult because we already have our own friends. Of course we want to hang out with them. But that other person wants a friend too. Go and talk to them. Ask what they’re interested in. Or maybe how they heard about Grange. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Simply talking to them can go a long way to make them feel more at ease. It’s about showing that you’re willing to make them feel comfortable. And it shouldn’t stop at that first meeting. Whenever you see them, say hi to them. It’ll help show that you actually care.

Think about a time when you went somewhere where you were fairly new. Maybe the first day of high school? Or the day a club met at school? How did it feel? You may have felt out of place or just awkward. Most of us go through this kind of situation at least once in our lives.

I experienced this during the first State Grange event I ever went to. It was State Session, so I knew a couple people, but not many. I felt slightly awkward when I walked in to the Youth Officer Team practice. There were a bunch of people who all seemed to know each other really well. Bu instead of just ignoring me because they already had friends, everyone was willing to include me. It was awesome. I got my first glimpse of how welcoming Grangers are from the very beginning. And pretty soon, I made friends with people that I still get to be friends with.

A huge part of Grange is the people that make up our “Grange family.” To a new person, it may be difficult if they see that aspect, but aren’t a part of it. But we can help solve that. Next time you see a new person, try to include them in what’s happening. They’ll feel so much better and you might even gain a new friend.

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.

 

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.

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

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.

 

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 [email protected].

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.

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

FFA and the Grange

This week, FFA chapters are celebrating National FFA Week. The Grange continues to have a strong commitment to this ag education youth organization. Subordinate Granges provide ag education scholarships and outstanding students in agriculture awards. State Granges connect with state officer teams. And many Grange members, including myself, have rocked a blue corduroy jacket and a blue subordinate Grange sash.

In honor of FFA Week, I am reposting the story I wrote back in the fall of 2010 talking about the connection between the two organizations. The story is as follows.

The Connection Between FFA and Grange

Walk the halls of almost any high school in America, and there are few things as universally recognizable as the blue corduroy of an FFA jacket. It is not only the unique style and bold colors that make it stand out, but also the young men and women who wear these jackets with pride. For many, the FFA is a focal point of their high school career. However, from the first time a student dons their FFA jacket, in the back of their mind, they realize it will one day come to an end.

Hanging up the blue jacket can be an emotional time for a retiring FFA member. They have invested countless hours in preparing for contests, developing leadership skills, and organizing their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project. Many are faced with the question of “what now?” For many, the Grange serves as the springboard for FFA alumni looking to take the next step in life.

Across the country there are Grange members, both current FFA members and alumni, who call the Grange home and say the blue sash of the Grange is a perfect fit.

From its inception, the Grange has advocated agricultural education, and has been an ardent supporter of FFA. Formerly known as the Future Farmers of America, the FFA was formed in 1926 to augment what was taught in the classroom with extracurricular activities. The Grange supported vocational education efforts, including the passage of several laws that lead to the FFA’s formation. The first FFA Executive Secretary, Henry Groseclose, was also a Seventh Degree Grange member, and is the author of the FFA Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

Some might think the similarities between the two organizations are coincidental. However, look beneath the surface, and the connection is profound.

Victor Salazar, 2010-2011 Connecticut FFA State President said, “Both organizations are rooted in agriculture, both promote excellence, and both make the member a better individual.” Salazar served as the 2008 National Grange Youth Master as part of the National Grange Youth Officer Team.

“I believe the best way to illustrate the connection between the Grange and the FFA is to look at the closing charge of the Master in the Grange and the President in the FFA;” he cited the charges’ common themes of diligence in labor, honesty and fairness. While each is said differently, the similarity is undeniable.

“These were written more than 50 years apart from each other, yet they say basically the same thing. To me this exemplifies the connection between the two organizations the best,” Salazar said.

National Grange Master Ed Luttrell said the FFA provided him with several life skills that he utilizes today in his Grange duties. However, he is quick to point out that it was in the Grange that he was able to take the classroom experience and apply it to real life.

“That is why the connection is so positive. You learn the skills on one side (in FFA) and then use them on the other side in Grange,” said Luttrell. During his time in the Hillsboro Mid-High chapter in Oregon, Luttrell said he participated in every FFA contest possible, soaking up information “as a sponge.” A favorite contest was parliamentary procedure, a skill that comes in handy in his current role as National Master.

Former Pennsylvania FFA State Reporter, and Elizabethtown Grange member, Suzannah Mellinger said that the one unique aspect of the Grange is its sense of family among its members. It is one of the reasons she joined the organization near the conclusion of her State Officer career. She also noted that for FFA alumni looking for the next step in leadership, the transition into the Grange is an easy one.

Caroline Tart, the 2009-2010 National Grange Youth Mentor and Rosewood FFA Chapter member, is facing this difficult phase of her FFA career; putting on her blue jacket for the last time. Like Salazar, she has had an active FFA career, including chapter and regional FFA offices and serving as a National FFA convention delegate for her home state of North Carolina.

“Hanging up my blue jacket was a very tough realization and the end of an era,” Tart said. “However, having the Grange there helps fill the void immensely. I know that it is an organization that has a passion for agriculture and helps improve the youth of today and those two things are what I am passionate about.” She also noted her dedication to agriculture and education did not have to end with FFA and that she is able to continue her work, just in a different way.

2009 National Youth Officer Team Master Joe Stefenoni of California encourages FFA members to seek the Grange to use their talents; “Once FFA members are out of high school they have very few places to use those skills, and the Grange is one of the places they can.” He is a member of the Sebastopol- Analy FFA chapter.

As an FFA member who has an appreciation for the opening and closing FFA ceremonies, Stefenoni said he has developed a passion for such Grange traditions as its rituals, describing them as “beautiful.”

Pennsylvania’s Gail Switzer, 2008-2009 National Grange Youth Mentor, and Conrad Weiser, FFA Alumni, said the National Grange Youth Department activities allow her the opportunity to continue her leadership growth through contests such as public speaking, gaining responsibility by completing tasks, and making her community better through Grange service projects.

The Grange is noted for its traditions of family and rural advocacy. It is those traditions that have made the lasting impact for FFA alumni in the Grange.

“The thing I remember most from FFA is the friendships we had,” said Luttrell. “We were the ag boys when I was in FFA… in reality, we were a close bunch because of the activities. Those things are exactly the same in the Grange, except the friendship and fellowship is far deeper and much longer lasting. There is a real difference from being a group of just high school students to being a part of a group that includes grandparents and little kids. The family structure of the Grange fills the void from FFA. It’s more than a bunch of peers, it’s a family. As we go through life, family becomes more and more important to us.”

Motivational Monday: You have to do the hard things

I do enjoy reading the thoughts of great business leaders, agriculture bloggers or an inspirational book. One of my favorite bloggers is Lee Cockerell. Cockerell is the former executive vice president of operations for Walt Disney World Resorts. He runs a blog and I have several of his books on my to-do “wish list” talking about leadership and creating that Disney magic.

Today, Cockerell posted a blog about doing the hard things for success. The 19 item list comes from Dan Waldschmit, a business strategist and speaker.

Below are Waldschmidt’s list on what it takes to be successful. While this has been designed for businesses, many of these same principles can be applied to our work as Grange youth, Grange young adults or Grange youth/young adult program leaders. My challenge is to select a couple to apply to your Grange work this year.

Let me know what ones you select, and how you will answer the challenge. Several responses could be selected for a future blog posting.

You Have To Do The Hard Things.

  1. You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
  2. You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
  3. You have to give more than you get in return right away.
  4. You have to care more about others than they care about you.
  5. You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.
  6. You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
  7. You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.
  8. You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.
  9. You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
  10. You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.
  11. You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
  12. You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts”.
  13. You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.
  14. You have try and fail and try again.
  15. You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.
  16. You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
  17. You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
  18. You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
  19. You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

“The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on,” Waldschmit says, “Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

“The hard things are the easiest things to avoid. To excuse away. To pretend like they don’t apply to you. Do the hard things. You might be surprised at how amazing you really are.”