A Granger Down Under

by Greg Krouse, October 16, 2013

I just returned from the California State Grange Convention in Sebastopol Grange last weekend. The state Grange is definitely on the rise even in the strange adversity from its National affiliation. A vigorous collection of Grangers from all over the state appeared to talk business, share accomplishments, elect officers and have a great time reconnecting.

We had to attend to the issue with the National Grange but we had other very important work to attend to. Most folks are not aware that the Grange, a rural organization has historically been a large means of change for rural folks. Through its conventions a process of resolutions and delegate driven decisions have lead to the use of Grange paid lobbyist and marches to make change. I have mentioned before that the changes accomplished include rural power, telephones, social security and more. The other part that makes the Grange unique to other organizations is its commitment to grow farmers and their families to be moral and whole folks (more about that below.)

The single huge project put into place in this convention is the State Grange Agricultural Arts School. You will hear more about this from others as it is focused in Willits on the Golden Rule ranch of Sea Biscuit-Frank Howard fame. A very organized effort is now beginning to emerge for Grangers and others to learn more farming skills. It is designed to bring programs to individual Granges. The response was huge and the commitment by the State Grange and its subordinate Granges is $50,000. Grange delegates were greatly impressed by the professional organization and presentation of this central idea of Grangers which developed some three years past. Local food farming is a key focus of the evolving Grange. Protecting farmers, farmland and consumers is another big focus which fuels the anti-GMO focus, and concerns about gas drilling fracking under farmland with its impacts on water. One Granger presented her focus on no GMOs with “Moms Across America” (.com for information,) which held parades across the US last July 4th to show Americans want GMO labeled. You can expect more of us joining in next year. Rural Grangers supported a resolution, saying No to the double taxing of Fire prevention in rural areas, further lobby the State to define terms like Tax, Fee and Toll and apply Prop 13 limits to them and agreed that prime farm land should not become a bloated Northern bypass interchange in Willits. In the spirit of the Grange bringing phones to rural areas, the convention considered the importance of broadband availability to all rural folks at low cost. As governments depend on disseminating information and receiving taxes in that form, a cheap means of access is necessary. Part of the past resolutions directed lobbyist to work to get what then President Clinton and Newt Gingrich took from citizens in a deal, ATT was released from a commitment of broadband for all. Our focus shifted to National Grange revoking California's State Grange. We needed to tighten up holes made by this action by our National President.

The National vs. State fracas started by the National President Ed Lutrell attacking our President in secret, not allowing his members to know he was under attack during a convention several years back. His actions are extreme diversions from the basic tenets of Grangers to care for one another, tolerate, and hang together in fidelity. Luttrell sued the California State Grange and its elected officers because they support their President, Bob McFarland, who has turned around a dying organization, inspiring folks in communities to turn on the lights in closed halls and grow. McFarland's enthusiasm is infectious and Granges are growing all over the state. The CSG countered the National with California corporate law as the CSG is a corporation run and directed by its grange members in a traditional corporate process. As a result of this, the National cannot take charge of the democratically operated CSG, which is run by democratically selected officers via membership. National President Luttrell revoked the connection to the National and barred Californian Grangers from its doors at the National Convention. He has also directed a few misguided California grange halls to pay the National directly, attempted to create a new National run CSG and is not returning the Grange Insurance funds he receives that ordinarily would be pass to the CSG (no small potatoes.) The story gets riper. Luttrell intimidated a previous Oregon Grange Master and is now working on the Wyoming Grange Master with tactics similar to his CSG attacks.

What's up with National President? Is it the money? Is it power? Is it an affiliation with ag corporates?

Reluctantly, yet carefully, the Convention covered its bets accepting bylaws that remove the National from its bylaws; hoping that things will resolve to reconnect the CSG with the rest of its States. We reviewed a letter from President of Wyoming State Grange, who is experiencing similar response from the National President and are aware that the States of Washington and Oregon have experienced similar behavior in the past. National President Luttrell is damaging the fabric of a great organization, yet it is making State Granges develop real sovereignty. The National election process is an extreme version of the electoral college with out the density representation. It is too isolated and President Luttrell's undemocratic approach to handling divergent states is to revoke them so they can not have a voice on the National level and attempt to find granges within the state under attack to take control of a new State Grange. It is not working in California. As the convention continued, one delegate recommended sending a strong letter of no confidence to Luttrell. Several responded on the floor to say, why respond? He does not want us! He chooses not to be our leader! Let's move on. A roar went up with this comment. As a final punctuation point to this, the delegates unanimously reelected Bob McFarland their President and praised him and his Executive committee for work well done.

We, Grangers have rituals that underscore our values and those rituals are highly apparent at our convention. The values are instilled to keep us appreciating one another and the land that gives us so much. I personally took on a level of ritual. I can not disclose what occurred, other than to say, that my fellow Grangers created a theatric experience that reach out to underscore yet another value. Do they work? Undoubtedly! Imagine some 200 delegates in various levels of agreement and disagreement, finding a place for angst that allows them to still stay connected with one another. That is what being is a Granger is about more than anything; occasionally disagreeing respectfully. It is the seeds of peace.

Meanwhile during our convention, yet another community inquired to be Grangers in our Mendocino County. That is news for the future.

A related aside, as I approached kitchen staff at the convention to store perishable food for an ailing Mother in law I was to see later in the day, I was approached by Chef Barbara, who told me about a program called Ceres. The program is a holistic approach to many problems. It provides wholesome, locally grown food where possible to ailing folks prepared per their needs using the combined talent of chefs and newly trained young folks. The focus is to engage unskilled youth to empower them with skills. To further this, a group called Angels delivers the food 2-3 times a week to ailing folks. These folks provided us with sustenance for our whole convention and let me say it was vital colorful food and designed for our unique needs. A vegan/gluten free version was provided and water laced with fruits and herbs that had definitely been “Rethought” per the Rethink Your Drink. Imagine receiving food from empowered chefs that is local, often organic, and processed with love from the git go? How could one stay ill?

All and all it was one great convention.

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