County youths work to revitalize old group
By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on May 18, 2008 2:01 AM
With agriculture facing more and more obstacles from population growth, urban development and high operating costs, local farmers aren't the only people mobilizing to make sure their voices are heard.
A group of high school and college students is as well, forming the Wayne County Youth Grange.
And they aren't wasting any time getting active.
Meeting last week for just the second time since organizing, the group of 12 students from all across Wayne County voted at Rosewood High School to hold a cake auction on June 2 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Dudley Christian Church on O'Berry Road. The group also received tickets to sell for a give-away that will be held during the event.
The cake auction will be part of the regular meeting held by the countywide Pomona Grange for adults and families. The youth grange members and their families will provide the cakes and other baked goods for the auction.
Publicity Chairwoman Ivey Best said the group is accomplishing so much so quickly because the members are committed to making a difference in what is happening to agriculture.
"The state is working toward creating a Super 70 project where you can't cross over from one side of the highway to the other," she said, adding that she wants to travel to Raleigh to talk to lawmakers about how bad that would be for the farmers who are used to being able to cross over the highway at those places that are now being closed.
"And there's a new law coming out saying you can't carry gas long distances," she added. "But how can you get around these places where you used to be able to cross over without going great distances?"
It's just one of the many questions she wants to ask lawmakers.
The group's commitment to the future of agriculture also can be attributed to its adviser, Allison Jennings, who is in her third year at Rosewood High School. She is the adviser to the school's FFA Club.
The Rosewood club suffered drops in membership in previous years due to turnover in advisers.
But Mrs. Jennings brought enthusiasm to the club and bonded with its members. She said she believes she has brought the stability that was needed to nurture the club into its current membership.
When she first came to work at Rosewood High, there were only 50 FFA Club members.
Today, there are 108.
Mrs. Jennings has already led the Rosewood FFA through several successful fundraising projects, but she said Tuesday night the youth Grange members want to make their own mark.
The youth Grange also has members representing FFA Clubs at Southern Wayne, Spring Creek and Eastern Wayne high schools and at Faith Christian Academy. Several of the youth Grange members who are high school seniors plan to attend Wayne Community College next year, where they will give the college representation among the youth Grange's membership, too.
Mount Olive College already has representation in the youth Grange with Collegiate FFA Club President Greg Baker serving as the youth Grange's Community Service chairman.
The Wayne County Youth Grange is the strongest in the state, according to State Youth Director Jennie Gentry, who has been helping guide the group through its transition into a unified county-wide organization.
Of the state's 48 Grange chapters, which includes youth Granges, too, Wayne County has three active adult and family Granges.
"There are a few (youth Granges in the state), but most of them when the meetings are held, they're attended by mostly adults with just a few kids. We're setting a whole new idea and standard here for Granges across the state," she said. "Some of these kids have been a member of their adult and family Grange for many years, but most of them are new."
The group's secretary, Katie Stevens, and its president, Codie Stevens, are brother and sister. They have been Grange members longer than any of the members. Katie is on the state youth team, and Codie is a state ambassador and represents North Carolina at all the national Grange events.
At their latest meeting, though, Codie Stevens was out of town, so Vice President Will Whitfield presided.
Whitfield said he was already a member of the Rosewood FFA when the youth Grange formed.
"I joined because I wanted to help support the cause and keep agriculture alive," he said. "We have something for everybody in the youth Grange."
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