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Annual Session - Master's Address
Master's Addresses are available for download in PDF form on the downloads page.
Master's Address for year:
Date of Address: October 17, 2019
Session: 135th Annual Session
State Master / President: George Russell

Brothers and Sisters of the Connecticut State Grange,

It is hard to believe that my first year as your President is coming to an end. The year has been a busy year for the Connecticut State Grange.
We hosted the Northeast Leaders’ Conference in March and the Northeast Youth Conference in July. There was an excellent turnout for the Northeast Leaders’ Conference with 117 people registered.   It was nice to see so many Grangers from Connecticut that were represented at the conference. This was the first year we opened it up to Subordinate Grangers so they could attend. There were four excellent speakers, both Friday night and Saturday. The four speakers spoke on Leadership and Membership strategies. There was also a banquet and entertainment on Saturday evening.

The Youth Conference in July was held at the University of Connecticut on the Storrs Campus. There were 28 members that spent the weekend competing in contests. Massachusetts Youth came on Sunday to compete in the drill contest. Dawn Anstett, Connecticut Youth Director, did an excellent job putting this conference together.

MEMBERSHIP

Once again this year our membership has declined in numbers. From the second quarter 2018 there were 1,879 members; in the second quarter of 2019 there were 1,745 members with a net loss   of 134. Along with membership decline we had four Granges that closed this past year. They were: Manchester #31, Southington #25, Ashford #90 and Norwich #172.  Every time a Grange closes, there  is a percentage of the members who do not join another Grange, so we lose in two ways, we lose the Grange and membership. Having to close a Grange is a difficult job for your State Master to do.

Your Board of Directors thought it was time that we hire a part- time membership director. Faith Quinlan, our Membership Director, agreed to take on this responsibility. Faith was one of the featured speakers at the Northeast Leaders’ Conference held last March and has written many articles in our Connecticut Granger. She is working with several Granges to help increase their membership. Faith has put together an advisory committee which consists of the Connecticut State Grange Master, State Treasurer, State Youth Director, Pomona member, Community Grange members under 30 years of age and the Membership Director. This committee has met and has come up with some ideas for programs and seminars that we will try to implement in the coming year. Faith will have more on this subject in her report tomorrow.

NATIONAL GRANGE

The National Grange is continuing to update our National Grange Building in Washington, D.C. A year ago, a new air conditioning and heating system were installed along with updating the electrical and plumbing systems in the building. This year’s campaign is called, “Raising the Roof.” A new roof has to be put on the National Grange building and they are looking to collect donations to do this project.

National Master Betsy Huber, along with some of her staff, are attending  Farm  Aid in Wisconsin. If you remember, last year the event was in Connecticut and several Grangers assisted with the Farm Aid pre-concert education center. It’s great to see that the National Grange supports Farm Aid, which raises millions of dollars for farmers. National  Membership  &  Leadership  Development  Director Joe Stefanoni will be setting up a Membership Booth at the FFA National Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. With 400+ exhibitors and 65,000 FFA members and guests will be attending this conference and expo. J. Allen and Shelley Cameron will be attending the conference to help Joe Stefanoni to man the booth.

The National Grange Convention will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from November 5th to the 9th. Sharon and I will be attending to represent the Connecticut State Grange as your delegates.

POMONA GRANGES

This year we have completed our first anniversary of our three Pomonas. All three Pomonas: Eastern Connecticut Pomona #14, Mountain Laurel Pomona #15 and Nutmeg Pomona #16, put on degrees for inspections and did very well on the opening and Degree work. Unfortunately there was a lack of member attendance and committee members. Some of the Pomona Masters are having difficulty in filling committees and we would hate to see the Pomona Grange fail. It would be wonderful to see the attendance and support begin to increase. The three Pomonas hold their meetings on either Saturday afternoon/evening or Sunday afternoons. There are only four regular meetings a year, so I urge each member to try to attend and support your Pomona.

EDUCATION

Your Connecticut State Grange continues to support Education by having available Scholarships and Student Loans. Each year the Connecticut State Grange gives out a number of Scholarships to Grange members who are attending college. The State Grange also has student loans up to $10,000 with 5% interest. I hope our Grange families will take advantage of this money that is available to them.

Our State Grange also continues to support the Vocational Agricultural Science Schools and the FFA across the state. Chartered in 1930 with 40 original charters, the Connecticut FFA association has 20 vocational Agricultural Science schools across the state with approximately 3,000 members and 100 teachers which has the highest teacher to student ratio in the country. Many of our Community Grangers make annual donations to the FFA Foundation. Several of our Grangers during the year put on an Agricultural program during their meeting. This is a great way for your local FFA chapter to help with your program and you can learn what the students are doing in their schools. It’s a good way for the Grange and the FFA to work together.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture is still a large part of Connecticut’s economy. Connecticut may be a small state in size but it’s agriculture industry contributes $4 billion to its economy each year. Connecticut has 5,521 farms and 381,539 acres of farmland today with the average farm size being 69 acres.

Greenhouse and Nursery production is the state’s largest agriculture sector and it accounts for more than half of Agricultural production sales and has a market value of $298.4 million.

The dairy industry in Connecticut is the home of 100 family farms that produce 427 million pounds of milk annually with a market value of $81 million. These one hundred dairy farms will produce 72,000 acres of hay and corn which is used by the farmers to feed their cattle. It is also used as open spaces for hunting and hiking. These last  three years, with the low milk prices, have been difficult for the dairy farmers. We have seen several farms that have sold out in the last couple of years. We have also seen some farms step up and go to more automation such as robot milking stations or large rotary parlors to cut down on labor cost. I have read that there’s a farm in Ellington that is processing his milk and delivering it to his customers. The customer orders the dairy products they wish to purchase. It is then packed with ice and delivered to the customer’s home.

Over the last several years Farmer’s Markets have been set up across the state. There are more than 125 Farmer’s Markets selling local produce, meats and food. Some of our local Grangers set up a table at their Farmer’s Market to promote their Granges and sell items they have made. The Farmer’s Market is a good place to promote your Grange and try to get new members.

OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS

I wish to thank the officers and directors for promoting the Connecticut State Grange. Our CWA committee continues to shine at the Let’s Celebrate event and for having the knitting and sewing contest items at the Big E. It was nice to see the big blue ribbons on some of these articles in the New England Grange Building on the Big E grounds.

I want to thank the Youth committee for putting together and hosting the Northeast Youth Conference last July which was held at the University of Connecticut. Although the turn out wasn’t what we expected, they all seemed to have a good weekend. I would also like to thank the Junior leaders that worked with our Junior Granges. Again this year we will have a candidate for Junior Ambassador, Brianna S. Gervais from Ekonk Community Junior Grange. She will represent Connecticut at the National Grange Convention next month. I wish her good luck in her venture.

Our Agricultural Committee has worked on updating our exhibit that we use at Ag-Day at the Capitol. There were four members form the State Grange who manned the booth that day. Our Legislative Committee has once again put together the Connecticut State Grange Legislative Policy Guide that was sent to our Senators and Representatives to inform them of our State Grange policies.

I would like to thank all the Officers and Deputies for being there and for informing me of any problems that came up during the year. You are the eyes and ears of the State Grange.

The Board of Directors are always watching out for the best interests of our Connecticut State Grange. Sometimes, some hard decisions have to be made and I think we have the right members to make those difficult decisions. One of the most difficult decisions they had to make this year, was the closing of Camp Berger. The Camp was discussed at several meetings before the decision was made.

It was an honor to work with this Board of Directors, especially the Treasurer and Secretary. Jody has put a lot of time into trying to sell three Grange buildings, working with real estate agents and showing the property to prospective buyers. Todd, besides doing the daily Secretary work, put together the Northeast Leader’s Conference and in his spare time he moved the Grange office from Glastonbury to Winchester. I thank both of them for all their time and effort to get these jobs done.

CLOSING COMMENTS

As my first year as Connecticut State Grange Master comes to    a close, I can look back and reflect on the positive memories of last year. Sharon and I had the honor to travel to Lyme Grange to present Arthur Skip Beebe with his Outstanding Firefighter trophy. We also  traveled to several Granges to present 50 year pins and Citizen of the Year awards.

The hardest thing to do as a State Master is to pick up a Charter from a Grange that has decided to close. We had four Granges that closed this past year, and two more that are discussing closure. Most of these Granges are over 100 years old and it’s sad to see them go.

The New England Grange Building at the Big E had another good year. 1.6 million people attended the 17 day fair from September  17 to September 29. Sunday, September 22 was Grange Sunday. Brother Noel Miller brought his truck and trailer for the float in the parade. It was nice to see so many Grange members from Connecticut participating in the parade. As I come to the close of this President’s Address, I would like to thank all of the Grangers in Connecticut for having the confidence in me to be your State Master.

Respectfully submitted,

George Russell

State Master

 
     
     
       
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