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Bellview Grange finds it easy to be green

Ashland’s Bellview Grange hosted Susan Noah, Oregon’s State Grange Master, and two of her advisers for a regional workshop on legislative awareness over the weekend. Local grangers want to know how to work with Oregon Grange lobbyists to take Grange policy issues into the state legislature.

“It’s been the first time that we’ve done anything like this,” said Noah of the workshop. “It’s been a really good learning situation for all of us at the state level, about what our members want, what they would like to see more of and seeing our members engaged in legislative action.”

Thirty-one resolutions on topics ranging from recycling to the North American Free Trade Agreement were put forth by Oregon’s local Granges and adopted at the state level. Included in these were six resolutions proposed by the Bellview Grange and one from the Williams Grange.

Bellview Grange’s resolutions adopted at the state level include: ending the use of dicamba in State of Oregon; protect farm workers from pesticide drift; set regenerative agricultural standards; support seed savers; support healthy pollinator populations; and oppose permitting for the Jordan Cove LNG Facility/Pacific Connector Pipeline.

The Williams Grange resolution that was approved at the state level concerned enacting the Josephine County genetically modified organism planting ban.

The Bellview Grange is known as a “green grange,” and describes itself as a hub for advocacy and activism on behalf of small family farmers, organic agriculture, sustainability, food sovereignty and security, social, economic and environmental justice and local resilience.

Three resolutions advanced by the Bellview Grange will be forwarded to the national organization: pesticide drift, regenerative agricultural standards and pollinator populations.

The state Grange delegates, Susan Noah as Oregon state grange master and Mark Noah as Oregon State Grange legislative director, determine which resolutions will be forwarded for a national Grange vote. In part, their decision is based on whether the resolution has national or only local implications and also on how the resolution was written, and whether the scope of the resolution is defined in the text as Oregon.

As an example of a resolution written too narrowly for national consideration though it is of national importance, the Bellview Grange’s dicamba resolution is specific to Oregon’s agriculture, asks for a moratorium on dicamba use in Oregon and resolves that the Oregon Grange support state legislation for a moratorium.

The first American granges, official known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, were formed in 1867 as a post-Civil War effort to heal the country and promote agricultural cooperation, family values and economic development. Their motto, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity,” describes the essential ideals of the fraternal organization. The earliest Oregon granges were founded in the Willamette in 1873 as a cooperative to establish affordable transportation of agricultural goods to market. Cooperative purchasing and bulk sales were part of the Oregon Grange’s original charter.

Ashland’s Bellview Grange, Grange 759, was chartered in 1930 with 27 members and not two weeks later membership swelled to more than 40 grangers. That year, Fred Homes and Albert Joy vied with each other to bring in the most members, Homes winning a basket of peaches when ripe later in the season. The peaches were enjoyed by all at the fall membership meeting. George Andrews, a local Realtor who later served on the Ashland City Council, was voted as the first Grange Master.

In 1934, members of the Rogue Valley granges banded together to start the Grange Co-op to insure a reliable supply of petroleum, later offering seed and other products as members voted. The Grange Co-op bought a truck in 1935 and in 1943, the Co-op bought the Ashland Mills, ensuring a south Valley distribution point. The requirement that Grange Co-op members also be members of a local grange was phased out in the 1950s.

Today, the Bellview Grange is one of nine granges in Jackson County. Many granges in Oregon and in the country have shown declining memberships or have lost their charter. Reversing the trend, membership in the Oregon Grange increased in 2017 for the first time since 1992, and the Bellview Grange won an award for most new members.

Today’s Grange members are more likely to be consumers of agricultural products than producers, according to Noah, and each grange has a voice in the Grange’s democratic process.

“The grange is much more than an agricultural organization, it’s a community organization,” Catie Faryl, secretary to the Bellview Grange, explained. “Every grange has its own identity, own culture.”

Now the Bellview Grange is reaching out to support other subordinate granges in Southern Oregon to build a larger collective voice through the Pomona Grange. Carmel Valencia is the newly elected master of the Pomona Grange, representing subordinate granges in Jackson County.

On Saturday, grangers traveled to Phoenix, Lake Creek and Roxy Ann granges and Oregon Grange Master, Susan Noah taught a class she calls, “Grange 101,” about grange principles and rituals. On Sunday grangers started the day with a pancake breakfast at the Williams Grange followed by tours to three area farms.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

(Sept. 14: Edited to clarify Bellview Grange's position on the Jordan Cove LNG Facility/Pacific Connector Pipeline.)

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