Growing through hands on agriculture

The Grange has it’s roots in agriculture, but as an organization has evolved to become reflective of its communities. However, as the distance from the farm gate to the dinner plate has grown, there is a growing interest among youth and young adults to learn more about where their food comes from.
Gardening has come back into fashion as people reach into the soil, whether it is a traditional garden turned with a tractor and disc or raised beds in a backyard or in a container on a patio.
Horticulture can also lead to a career as it has been reported there is a shortage of college graduates to fill the jobs in this career field.
This year, the National Grange Youth Department announced a partnership with the National Junior Horticultural Association to connect youth with a new set of contests and programs. Below is the story written by Debbie Gegare, Wisconsin Grange youth director and NJHA youth coordinator for the “Jungle Echo” at the 2014 National Grange Session in Sandusky, Ohio.
Grange Youth partners with NJHA
DEBBIE GEGARE
DCI Communications Fellow
This year, the NationalGrange Youth Department and National Junior Horticultural Association have entered into a partnershipto encourage horticultural education. Horticultural education was a passion of Wib Justi, first National Grange Youth Development Director. He was involved withNJHA, fostering a partnership between the two organizations.
Starting in 2015, a Grange division has been added to the NJHA Horticultural Identification and JudgingContest. In addition, Grange youth can participate in other NJHA national contests such as demonstrations,speeches, photography, performing arts, and promotion
of horticulture to name a few.
“This will be a great way for our two youth organizations to collaborate on agriculture
and horticulture education and to stimulate interest for both groups,” said Charlene
Shupp Espenshade, National Grange Youth and Young Adults Director.
By participating in these contests, youth not only have a chance to win prizes in NJHA but also earn Grange Youth seals.
To learn more about these contests and for entry deadlines, check out the 2015 National Grange Youth Handbook at www.nationalgrangeyouth.org or go to www.njha.org.

It’s Grange Month – how will you celebrate?

2015-Grange-Month-FB-BannerGrange month is a time for Granger to celebrate what makes our organization so wonderful. How will you celebrate? Will your Grange host an open house or a community night? Or, will your members organize a community service project?

No matter what you do, take advantage of Grange month to raise awareness of your friends and neighbors to the impact Grange can have on your community and their lives.

Need help? Go to the National Grange website for more information.

USDA to Provide $332 Million to Protect and Restore Agricultural Working Lands, Grasslands and Wetlands

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack  announced that U.S. Department of Agriculture is making available $332 million in financial and technical assistance through the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) on March 31.  USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will accept ACEP applications to help productive farm and ranch lands remain in agriculture and to protect the nation’s critical wetlands and grasslands, home to diverse wildlife and plant species.

“USDA helps farmers, ranchers, private forest landowners and partners to achieve their conservation goals using our technical expertise, Farm Bill funding and sound conservation planning,” Vilsack said. “Conservation easements are an important tool to help these landowners and partners voluntarily provide long-term protection of our nation’s farmland, ranchland, wetlands and grasslands for future generations.”

The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. NRCS easement programs have been a critical tool in recent years for advancing landscape-scale private lands conservation. In FY 2014, NRCS used $328 million in ACEP funding to enroll an estimated 145,000 acres of farmland, grassland, and wetlands through 485 new easements.

In Florida, NRCS used ACEP funds to enroll an additional 6,700 acres in the Northern Everglades Watershed, supporting the restoration and protection of habitat for a variety of listed species, including the Wood Stork, Crested caracara, and Eastern Indigo Snake. The Nebraska Land Trust plans to use ACEP to enroll more than 1,400 acres of native grazing lands that also include grasslands and woodlands that provide critical habitat for Nebraska’s bighorn sheep and elk.

ACEP’s agricultural land easements not only protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, but they also support environmental quality, historic preservation, wildlife habitat and protection of open space. American Indian tribes, state and local governments and non-governmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs are eligible to partner with NRCS to purchase conservation easements. A key change under the new agricultural land easement component is the new “grasslands of special environmental significance” that will protect high-quality grasslands that are under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development and other non-grazing uses.

Wetland reserve easements allow landowners to successfully enhance and protect habitat for wildlife on their lands, reduce impacts from flooding, recharge groundwater and provide outdoor recreational and educational opportunities. NRCS provides technical and financial assistance directly to private and tribal landowners to restore, protect and enhance wetlands through the purchase of these easements, and Eligible landowners can choose to enroll in a permanent or 30-year easement; tribal landowners also have the option of enrolling in 30-year contracts.

ACEP applications may be submitted at any time to NRCS; however, applications for the current funding round must be submitted on or before May 15, 2015.

To learn about ACEP and other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/GetStarted or your local USDA Service Center.

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.

National Grange Youth Ambassadors Celebrate Ag Day

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Derek Snyder and Cassidy Cheddar with Rep. Lou Barletta, center.

WASHINGTON – The nation’s capital turned green for agriculture on March 18 for National Ag Day. National Grange Youth Ambassadors Cassidy Cheddar of Elizabethtown, Pa. and Derek Snyder of Boiling Springs, Pa. joined more than 100 college students to deliver a message for agriculture to their legislators.

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National Grange youth director Charlene Shupp Espenshade, National Youth Ambassador Cassidy Cheddar, Rep. Joe Pitts, National Youth Ambassador Derek Snyder, and National Legislative Director Burton Eller.

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Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway with Cassidy Cheddar and Derek Snyder.

“There is a growing divide between the farm and the consumer. And, for most high school students, unless they are enrolled in a vocational agricultural program, their exposure to farming practices is limited,” said Cheddar. She is a senior studying agricultural education at Penn State with plans to teach after graduation.

 

Ag Day is another way to raise awareness to the value of agriculture. An Elizabethtown Area Grange #2076 member, Cheddar has organized several agriculture awareness programs through her local Grange including a June Dairy Month coloring contest and past local Ag Day programs.

This year’s celebration theme selected by the Agriculture Council of America is “Agriculture: Sustaining Future Generations.”

 

In addition to visiting with their congressmen and senators, Cheddar and Snyder participated in the Ag Day Mix and Mingle Luncheon at the capitol. The luncheon was emceed by agricultural broadcaster Orion Samuelson and featured the Outstanding Young Farmer honorees and members of Congress.

 

“Even if you do not farm, agriculture is important,” Snyder said. “He is a freshman at Penn State University, majoring in business and economics. He is a member of Valley Grange #1360. Food insecurity is a community service priority at his home Grange. They have organized food drives for local food banks. This past January, his Grange donated money for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank’s “Fill a Glass of Hope” milk drive. The funds were used to provide fresh milk to needy families. “I am always touched how something as simple as the gift of milk can have such a profound impact to those in need,” Snyder said.

 

Cheddar and Snyder met with Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa. 16), Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa. 11) and senate staff for Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). At the Mix and Mingle event, the ambassadors visited with House Agriculture Committee chair Rep. K. Michael Conaway of Texas.

National Ag Day was created to generate awareness to food and fiber production and the role agriculture plays in providing a safe, affordable food supply.

 

National Grange Legislative Director Burton Eller and National Grange Youth Director Charlene Shupp Espenshade joined the ambassadors for their visits to Capitol Hill and National Ag Day activities.

 

The National Grange’s youth department encourages its youth and young adults to explore different aspects of agriculture. The William Saunders Agricultural Achievement Award program asks Grangers to explore and participate in an agricultural experience. This year, the National Grange formed a partnership with the National Junior Horticultural Association to raise awareness to the horticulture industry. The Apathy Not Allowed program is a grassroots advocacy program. More information about the Grange Youth program is available at www.nationalgrangeyouth.org. Information about National Grange legislative policy is available at www.nationalgrange.org.

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.

 

Connecting Grange Youth to Jobs

Last week, the National Grange Youth Department started a LinkedIn group called National Grange Youth Connections. The purpose of the group is to start connecting Grangers of multiple generations. The strength of our organization is the diversity of career paths and talents. The interests of Grange youth and young adults are just as diversified.

My one college professor said the best jobs are not found in an ad, but by word of mouth. This is how I believe our Grange fraternity can help one another. Look at the Grange motto – “In essentials, unity; non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.” As Grangers, we seek to help one another.

Maybe it’s helping a Grange youth seeking advice about a career interest. Or, a Granger seeking a talented intern for their company. Or for a young adult, maybe they are looking for a career change or advice on how to advancement. The options are endless and if one Granger can help another, isn’t that what this organization is all about? Helping a Granger with a need?

To join the group, search for “Grange Youth Connections” after you sign in with your LinkedIn account. The page is still a work in progress and hopefully can serve as an incubator for career mentoring and development.

As always, I am looking for advice on how to improve the page. For Grangers, it will be a place to post job listings and start group discussions for career development and interests.

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.

 

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.