Oh, the weather outside…

The weather outside is, at the moment, either frightful or lovely depending on your perspective. However, the snow is supposed to end this morning… and the Valley Grange Meeting for tonight is planned as scheduled! We have lots going on… starting with a potluck supper (bring a dish to share if you can) at 6 PM during which our blistered finger knitters are welcome to sort through our yarn donations… the meeting itself includes a short ceremony to honor recently departed members Laura Pratt, Marilyn Harvey, and Merna Dunham. Families and friends are invited to share in this… Garland Grange members are planning to “invade” us for the program featuring Denise Trafton of Penquis Journey House… the evening promises to be one of fun and friendship.

So come on down (or up or over)… items being collected at this meeting include:

  • sheets, pillowcases, towels and wash clothes to be sent to our troop arriving in Germany from Iraq and Afghanastan.
  • used Christmas cards (front panel only) children use to “manufacture” cards as a fundraiser
  • yarn for our knitters (knitters can, of course, bring any finished mittens/hats)
  • seed catalogs — a new request and it might be a bit early, but if you have any you’re not going to use or you’re finished with, we can take them to the school for an art project starting in February.

Of course you don’t have to bring anything but a smile! Come see what “Grange” is all about!

GrowME Sprouts and Spurts

While it might be difficult to think about gardening and farming in mid-January, a group of volunteers are doing just that. The result is a GrowME program being offered to K-3 teachers and schools in Piscataquis County. The program is the result of collaboration between Valley Grange, PCSWCD (Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District) and UMaine Piscataquis County Extension.

The program aims to utilize local volunteers who will work with teachers to schedule an agricultural activity in their classrooms during Maine Agriculture Week (March 12-16). Shelia Richards, Executive Director of PCSWCD is particularly excited over the “hands on” aspect of the activities. “Thanks to our rural nature in Piscataquis County, we don’t have the ‘nature deficit’ that some more urban areas experience,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be offering our kids an opportunity to involve all their senses and get some hands on learning.”

Walter Boomsma, program director for Valley Grange agrees. For the past few years he’s visited second graders at PCES to make butter. “We have fun and the kids almost don’t realize they are learning–some have even asked for instructions and then made butter at home as a family activity.” Grange members have also done seed planting activities and created animal graphs. “We also spend some time just talking with the kids—many have chickens and gardens and it’s fun to share experiences.” Richards has also seen positive impact of these hands on experiences—she’s visited a local preschool with a kid – the goat kind – for several years. After last year’s activities, she and Boomsma agreed to explore working together to expand and formalize the program.

Boomsma notes that within a few days of announcing the program they had 27 classes signed up, but there should be no shortage of volunteers and resources thanks to the collaboration. “We’ve got master gardeners and farmers available through Extension Programs and PCSWCD includes partners and resources that are committed to good stewardship. Our goal is to keep this informal, local, and a true partnership between our schools, teachers, and volunteers. It’s not so much that we have a program to offer—it’s more about working together to make good use of our resources. Our volunteers will have the sort of agricultural experience and background to be especially relevant to students while providing insight into the importance of agriculture in our area.”

This year, the group is planning to focus on kindergarten through third grade but is hoping to make this an annual program and expand into additional grades.

This year’s offer is for a GrowME volunteer to visit for about 20 minutes and work with students on a simple, grade appropriate activity. Teachers and administrators who are interested need only furnish contact information: teacher’s name-email address and grade. Interested teachers may email grange@boomsmaonline.com or call Shelia at PCSWCD, 564-2321.