04/26/07 — Resurgent Grange working to boost community, not just agriculture interests

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Resurgent Grange working to boost community, not just agriculture interests

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on April 26, 2007 1:52 PM

A fraternal organization formed more than a century ago to promote agriculture and the American rural community is making a resurgence in Wayne County.

April is National Grange Month and Grange officials in the county say they believe the dramatic changes in farming and in the rural areas of the county are making the organization more relevant than ever.

Wayne was once the home of a half dozen active Granges and organizers of two of them are working to revitalize not only their groups but other inactive groups as well.

The Brogden Grange and the Grantham Grange meet regularly, for both social and civic functions. Grange members are quick to point out that the organizations are not just farm-oriented, but community-oriented.

Bobby Crawford is the president of the Grantham Grange. Crawford isn't a farmer, but he comes from farming stock. A native of Grantham, he is the son and grandson of Grange members and believes that the local organization can again be a forceful voice for the community. Over the past few years, the Grantham group has grown from 15-20 members to more than 60.

"We're a community-based organization," Crawford said. "It's not all about farming. What we do at the Grantham Grange is community service, more than anything else."

Crawford cited the group's work at improving other areas of the community -- from sponsoring teacher and pastor appreciation events to supporting youth organizations, the environment and improvements in providing health care.

Crawford said he has been working with people in other areas of the county in an effort to restart some of former Grange groups, such as the ones in New Hope, Nahunta and Belfast. People don't have to be farmers to join and contribute, he said, all they have to be is interested in improving their communities.

And with development constantly spreading into rural areas, more people will find the Grange a good way to make their voices heard on issues such as public utilities and services, highways, land-use planning, medical services and other issues, Crawford said.

Lloyd Massey has been a member of the Grange for 70 years and has held both state and national posts with the organization.

Massey said the Grange is a viable group that can be a force for good, in Wayne and other counties around the state. The Brogden Grange, of which he is a member, is involved in a number of civic projects and works to boost the quality of life of the county's residents. Jimmy Martin is president of the Brogden Grange.

The county Grange, also known as the Pomona Grange, is made up of all the active Granges in the county. The Wayne County Grange, which is led by former legislator and county commissioner John Tart, has taken a stand on a number of political issues and recently approved several resolutions urging local, state and federal officials to address several of the most pressing ones.

Among those resolutions are calls for the Congress to approve a farm bill that will help not only large producers of big commodities such as cotton and corn, but also smaller farm operators who grow vegetables, fruits and other niche crops and for local officials to build smaller schools that Grange members say are better able to meet the needs of students and teachers.

Other resolutions urge officials to reduce the Medicaid burden on county taxpayers, do more to control coyotes and fire ants, require students to stay in school until they are 18 years old and limit the terms of both state legislators and members of Congress.

Another resolution calls for Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr to oppose the merger of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, which Grange members say puts too much power in too few hands. Farmers and consumers would be hurt by the merger, they say.