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Around The Grange
National Grange Pres speaks optimistically about the future

By Gordon Block, Watertown Daily News, New York (6/23/12)

  JUNE 25, 2012 --

The arrival of the National Grange Master to the hamlet’s Grange hall (New York) drew out several dozen North Country residents.

Ed Luttrell, who leads the organization from its headquarters in Washington, D.C., spoke positively about the group’s future at both the national and local levels.

Mr. Luttrell said it was “absolutely essential” to build connections between national leaders and local members.

“The Grange lives, serves and breathes in communities we call home,” he said.

Attendees of the meeting came from across the region, including St. Lawrence, Lewis and Oswego counties, bringing with them several decades of both Grange membership and farming experience.

Jesse E. Schantz, from the Denmark Grange, first got into dairy farming by working at his father-in-law’s farm in 1958.

Robert E. Lewis, who came up from the Sandy Creek Grange with Carol A. Rohrmoser, previously had worked as a county agriculture agent.

Much of the meeting was spent discussing the organization’s current condition. Despite concerns about declining membership, Mr. Luttrell’s numbers showed a stabilization in membership levels nationally, along with interest in forming new Grange chapters across the country. The organization also had found success protecting its name in trademark disputes.

Stephen C. Coye, state Grange master, said he saw a shift in people looking to join community organizations.

“People are coming back, and they’re seeing the Grange fits the bill here,” Mr. Coye said. Mr. Coye said that this year the organization had seen multiple Granges either created or reorganized. Currently, the state has 192 Granges and 5,696 members.

Mr. Luttrell stressed the need for local chapters to expand their presence to attract new members, primarily young people.

“They need us and they don’t even know it,” Mr. Luttrell said.

One method suggested was the creation of a social media presence. The national organization said it plans in the future to supply each local chapter with a website.

“We’re reaching into their world,” Mr. Luttrell said after the meeting.

Though many in the audience were older, youth was represented in Friday’s proceedings. Amanda A.V. Rhodes, a graduating senior from the Belleville Henderson Central School District who will become president of the state FFA July 1, attended the meeting with John W. Allen, a fellow student from the school and the state organization’s outgoing president.

“It’s nice to see a lot more people involved in agriculture,” Ms. Rhodes said.

David C. Brass, master of the Adams Center Grange, said he was thrilled about Mr. Luttrell’s visit the chapter and to see support from the national chapter.

“It’s good to know somebody’s behind us,” Mr. Brass said.

Mr. Brass said the local Grange had seen a rise in interest and currently has about 50 members on the books.

He credited the Grange’s success to the camaraderie within the group and its willingness to reach out for new members.

“We aren’t afraid to talk to people,” Mr. Brass said.

Mr. Luttrell’s tour of the state ends today with stops in East Pembroke and Fredonia.

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