Great Plains Conference Challenges Grangers to Expand Their Horizons

Derek Snyder discusses how to prepare for a legislative meeting.

Derek Snyder discusses how to prepare for a legislative meeting.

Grangers were challenged to take a leap of faith at the 2015 Great Plains Regional Leadership/Youth Conference. Members participated in the challenge course at the Hesperus Camp, Hesperus, Colo.

Grangers had to choose one of three ways up the course to the platform about 20 feet in the air to take the zipline down the hill. Members could climb a rock wall, cargo net or up a pole with cleat hand/footholds.

“It was absolutely amazing to watch Grangers battle their fears to reach the top and then take the ‘leap of faith’ to go down the zip line,” said National Grange Youth Director Charlene Shupp Espenshade. “Other Grangers cheered members on as they tried to overcome difficulties to reach the top.”

Colorado State Grange organized this year’s conference. The event included a mix of workshops, activities and projects from the youngest junior Granger to adults. Junior Grangers worked on centerpieces for the National Grange Session Junior Breakfast.

National Grange Youth Ambassador Derek Snyder led an Apathy Not Allowed workshop

Grangers took on the challenge to ride a zip line.

Grangers took on the challenge to ride a zip line.

with Espenshade. Grangers chose to prepare a key request in support of rural broadband – showing how broadband access could improve education opportunities, business growth and access to critical medical care. They presented their viewpoint to “Congressman Snyder” who eventually agreed with their position.

National Membership Director Michael Martin presented a workshop on the ritualisic elements of the Grange.

Grangers also participated in the pubic speaking, sign-a-song and Grange Jeopardy contests.

Daniel Greer of Colorado topped the prepared speech contest earning the Best of Show award. Beth Simons of Colorado earned the Best of Show award in the sign-a-song contest.

Three Coloradoans qualified to represent the Great Plains Region in Grange Jeopardy, Daniel Greer, Beth Simons and Dominick Breton.

Photos from Great Plains Conference can be viewed at the National Grange Youth Facebook page at



Teambuilding idea: Marshmallow towers

School is out for the summer! With the warmer days, it means GRANGE YOUTH CAMP! Camp is a highlight for many Grangers and with it comes the challenge of balancing fun, memories and leadership skills.

One of my favorite teambuilding projects is marshmallow towers. The idea is very basic, take the given tools in a bag and work with your group to create the tallest tower you can.

What do you need:

Supplies needed:

  • Spaghetti (uncooked)
  • Marshmallows
  • Paper plate
  • Prize or reward (optional)

Create teams of Grange youth between 4 to 8 Grangers.


Give each group some marshmallows and spaghetti. The goal of the exercise is to build the tallest tower possible out of the spaghetti and marshmallows.

Allow the students 10-15 minutes to accomplish this. The team that has the highest tower wins a prize.


Afterwards, you could have the groups discuss 1) how well did your team work together, 2) who most helped the group pursue its goal, 3) what role did you play in the group, and 4) what would you do differently if given a second chance at this activity?


The activity can be modified to use toothpicks, tested to see what tower can withstand the greatest amount of weight, etc. This activity also works well as an icebreaker by encouraging intermingling among the Grange youth.

Five steps for youth legislative involvement

On Tuesday, April 21, the Grange Youth Department hosted its monthly TeamSpeak meeting. Grange youth member Christopher Szkutak shared five points on how Grange youth can participate with grassroots advocacy.

Point #1 — If your community grange does not have a legislative director/chair volunteer to serve. If your Grange has a legislative chair, ask to join the legislative committee. It’s a chance to step up and learn more about issues impacting your community and share it with your fellow Grangers.

Point #2 — Help your Grange to organize a legislative night. If an election year, host a candidates forum instead. The non-partisan stance of the Grange is a value to many legislators. Grange halls are a great forum for legislators and candidates to share their ideas, goals and listen to the concerns of the community. Legislative nights also have a news value and can generate publicity for the Grange.

Point #3 — Review state and national Grange policy books. See if a resolution is needed on an issue. Do research beforehand to make sure every is accurate. If you need help writing a resolution, ask others for help. As one Granger suggested, hosting a workshop about resolution writing can help encourage youth and Grangers craft resolutions to send to Pomona and state Grange for consideration. The youth department also has an achievement seal program to recognize Grangers for their participation.

Point #4 — Participate in National Grange Youth legislative programs, such as the John Trimble Legislative Experience. The Trimble Legislative Experience or a state-level program, gives Grange youth and young adults a chance to have a front-row seat to the delegate process. Trimble youth participate on a national delegate committee and is seated with the national delegates. They also assist the National Grange Legislative department.

Point #5 – Organize a subordinate Grange lecturer’s program based off the Apathy Not Allowed. The program promotes the value of Grange members engaging in the voting process. The United States has one of the lowest voter turnouts of all developed countries. The program reminds Grangers that twice a year, through a primary and general election, they have a chance to impact who their elected officials are.




Eastern Regionals rewind

A big thank-you to the Ohio State Grange for hosting the 2015 Eastern Regional Youth Conference.

National Grange Youth Ambassadors Cassidy Cheddar and Derek Snyder joined me to present two workshops. The first was on PI2 (PI squared) to encourage Grange involvement to encourage Grange growth. The second was based on the program, Apathy Not Allowed, or grassroots advocacy.

Michael Martin, National Membership director, presented a workshop on code reading. As expected, for many of the Grangers, it was the first time they had ever attempted the code reading. With some encouragement, Jenna Wyler, the 2014-15 Ohio State Grange Youth Ambassador earned a Thompson Achievement Seal for code reading.

The contests were very competitive, especially Grange Jepardy, where youth tested their Grange knowledge. Jennifer and Rob Beaman of Pennsylvania and Melanie Fitch of Ohio will represent the Eastern Region at the national contests. In the public speaking contest, the winner was Jenna Wyler of Ohio Melanie Fitch of Ohio earned the best of show sign a song.

The regionals was also a time for Grangers to enjoy getting to know others from other states, share Grange stories and create new friendships.

For a photos from the event, go to the National Grange Youth Facebook page.

PI 2 — Growing one member at a time

This is a poem that was written to show the value of thinking positively and growth.

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

Organizing a New Grange

By: Emily and Matt Shoop, New York State Grange Youth

When we hear about organizing a Grange, it is often a re-organization, or in an area where there once was a Grange or other rural organization. Starting anything new can be hard, but when you’re under 30 and in a city, the idea of starting a new Grange can be daunting. However, that’s just what we did.

For about a year or so we had been thinking “wouldn’t that be great if… I wish we had….” along with many other thoughts. We would tell friends about the wonderful things the Grange has to offer and their responses would often be “I can’t drive that far to do that” or “I don’t have a car, I can’t get there” or even “I don’t want to be the youngest person there.” So, we finally decided to get moving on starting a Grange in this area – Albany, N.Y.

It started with just some conversations, throwing around the idea. We made a Facebook page and invited people to like it. We held an interest meeting where people could come and learn about the benefits of being a member along with the great opportunities that you would have, and what do you know, by the end of the night we had 13 people sign our charter list; and Capital City Grange #1606 started.

Most Granges have their own building, so that was a big thing we had to address. We decided since we wanted to truly embrace our community, we would “library hop” and therefore we reserve a space in a meeting room in one of the six libraries in our city. We meet twice a month and we have members between the ages of 20 – 55. Our members are students, teachers, factory workers, stay at home moms, nurses, secretaries…you name it. It’s interesting to be the “know alls” in our group, as we are on the younger end of the spectrum. We spend our meetings learning about Grange ritual and history, as we teach those who do not have the experiences we have. We even brought three members to our Pomona meeting this month to continue to introduce more knowledge of the Grange and what we do as an organization.

Editor’s note: Emily serves as the Lecturer at Capital City Grange #1606, Lecturer and youth committee of Albany Pomona #4, youth committee, Ceres and Co-Director of Camp of New York State Grange. Matthew serves as the Master of Capital City Grange #1606, Steward of Bethlehem Grange #137, Steward of Albany Pomona #4 and Co-Director of Camp for New York State Grange.

Grange shadowing

Young agriculturalists are often encouraged to seek internships or work for another farm before returning to the family farm. The object is to provide the aspiring farmer a chance to see how other farms operate. They learn practices they like or get hands on experience with a process or management practice they are considering implementing at home. They also learn how it is to work for others and gather some practical experience.

Aspiring farmers often pick up apprenticeships for some hands on experience.

How does this fit into our Grange experience? The question, “how to do we…” is one I often hear as Grangers are seeking ideas to create new programs, generate excitement among their members or building their local youth program. I am a big believer in hands-on learning, so spending time with a neighboring Grange to learn about one of their successful programs or how they create that excitement among their members could provide some tips and ideas to take home. Thus, “Grange shadowing.”

This does not mean your Grange or youth department has to morph into an exact replica of the Grange you are shadowing. Instead, like these young farmers, you see what practices, activities and ideas could work at your Grange and what ones might not. The goal is how to advance your Grange for future success.

Grange shadowing could be more than just attending meetings. It could include volunteering at an event they organize that you are interested in bringing to your home Grange. If your Grange does not participate in a visitation program, usually among Granges in a Pomona, create a hybrid of the idea. Find a “sister” Grange you could develop a relationship with. The ideas are limitless.


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


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


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:, 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.