Maine member releases easy-to-read book ‘Exploring Traditions’ of the Grange

Reprinted from the September 2018 issue of The Patrons Chain–The Official Newsletter of the National Grange


Walter Boomsma, Program Director of Valley Grange and Maine State Grange Communications Director has authored the book, “Exploring Traditions–Celebrating the Grange Way of Life.”

While this is not his first book, Boomsma believes it may be one of his most important.

“The primary goal in writing it was to encourage exploration,” Boomsma said. “The Grange is a 150-year-old organization with a strong agricultural focus and many are questioning its relevance to today’s society. I wanted to encourage people to develop a deeper understanding of what the Grange is all about–including our members. The Grange is very much about a way of life and, while farming has changed, people have not.”

Boomsma said he also believes people who are not familiar with the Grange will appreciate exploring the value of tradition in general since “tradition and ritual create stability and a sense of community, especially when we understand the basis for them.”

Betty Van Dyke accepts the “very first copy” of Exploring Traditions from Walter Boomsma, the author.

National Grange Master Betsy Huber provided a foreward to the book, in which she wrote, “These essays by Walter Boomsma unpack the teachings of the Grange and relate them to today’s world
and our everyday lives. He has a gift for taking the lessons from the farm and showing their relevance today, even for those whose only interaction with agriculture happens through their food and clothing choices. He understands the meaning the Grange Founders intended and interprets the sometimes archaic language to reveal the principles they wanted to teach to farm families who often had no other opportunity for education.“

Boomsma dedicated the book to a woman he affectionately calls a “Granger Extraordinaire,” Betty Van Dyke of Guilford. During a presentation of the first copy of the book, Boomsma said Van
Dyke explained the great influence she had during his “formative years” as a Grange member.

“I came to appreciate both her knowledge of the Grange’s teachings and her commitment to what I later came to understand as ‘the Grange Way of Life.’”

At the height of her Grange career, Van Dyke held a number of local and state positions, including serving as the Maine State Community Service Director. At 94, Van Dyke still keeps track of what’s going on at Valley Grange and is a strong supporter.

Boomsma will sign copies of the book at the 152nd Annual Convention where it will be available for sale. It is also available through the Grange Supply Store. Contact Loretta Washington at sales@nationalgrange.org or by phone at (202) 628-3507 ext. 109.

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Betty Van Dyke Honored…

BV and WB

Betty Van Dyke receives the first copy of “Exploring Traditions” from Author Walter Boomsma

Guilford–Betty Van Dyke of Guilford was recently notified that a soon to be released book is dedicated to her. Walter Boomsma, Program Director of Valley Grange and Maine State Grange Communications Director has authored the book, “Exploring Traditions–Celebrating the Grange Way of Life.” He dedicated the book to Van Dyke, calling her a “Granger Extraordinaire” and explaining the great influence she had during his “formative years” as a Grange member.   “I came to appreciate both her knowledge of the Grange’s teachings and her commitment to what I later came to understand as ‘the Grange Way of Life.'”

At the height of her Grange career, Van Dyke held a number of local and state positions, including serving as the Maine State Community Service Director. At 94, Van Dyke still keeps track of what’s going on at Valley Grange and is a strong supporter.

Boomsma describes his latest book as serving a dual purpose. “The primary goal in writing it was to encourage exploration. The Grange is a 150-year-old organization with a strong agricultural focus and many are questioning its relevance to today’s society. I wanted to encourage people to develop a deeper understanding of what the Grange is all about–including our members.  The Grange is very much about a way of life and, while farming has changed, people have not.” He also believes people who are not familiar with the Grange will appreciate exploring the value of tradition in general since “Tradition and ritual create stability and a sense of community, especially when we understand the basis for them.”

In her foreward to the book, National Grange Master Betsy Huber writes, “These essays by Walter Boomsma unpack the teachings of the Grange and relate them to today’s world and our everyday lives.  He has a gift for taking the lessons from the farm and showing their relevance today, even for those whose only interaction with agriculture happens through their food and clothing choices.  He understands the meaning the Grange Founders intended and interprets the sometimes archaic language to reveal the principles they wanted to teach to farm families who often had no other opportunity for education. “

The book is available through a number of outlets including Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as the Grange’s National Supply Store.

 

It’s Grange Month!

by Mary Annis, Valley Grange Secretary

The Grange is now just over 150 years old.  On December 4, 1867, sitting around a plain wooden table in Washington, DC, seven men organized the Grange. They were all men of vision – had faith in God, their fellow man, and the future. Their focus was on agriculture and the principle that life would not exist without farming. From these humble beginnings, a fraternal order known as the Patrons of Husbandry was born.

Through the years the Grange has been responsible for many projects that have made life better for both farmers and the average citizen. In 1896, the Order was the impetus behind getting the Rural Free Delivery system implemented. This allowed the mail to be delivered directly to farm families who used to have to travel for miles into town to pick up their mail.  And, of course, it continues to this day.

When the Grange was organized the forward-thinking men recognized the importance of women in the farm household.  This was well before women had the right to vote.  In the Grange, there are four offices that can only be held by women. And they were also given an equal voice in all matters coming before the body with full voting privileges.

Do you have an idea to make life better? In the Grange, there is a way to see your ideas come into being.  In your local Grange, you can write a resolution explaining your idea and present it to the members. The members discuss it and vote on it. If passed it goes on to the County Grange, or Pomona Grange, where the same happens. Then it will go to the State Grange and be presented at their annual conference, discussed and passed. It is a great way to have your voice heard.

There are several active Granges locally. Our Grange is Valley Grange, located at 172 Guilford Center Road. We do many activities throughout the year to help our community.  From Project Linus to knitting to working on several projects with the local school children, it’s all a labor of love.  To find out more about the Granges nearby you can visit the Maine State Grange website (mainestategrange.org) or the Valley Grange website (valleygrange.com). We are a friendly group of people and love to have visitors at our meetings.  The next meeting scheduled for Valley Grange is May 18, when we will be presenting our Community Citizen of the Year Award.  It’s an “open” meeting, beginning at 6 pm with a potluck supper and the ceremonies beginning at 7 pm.  We’d love to have you come.

First County Agent in Piscataquis County…

Grangers will likely enjoy this article penned (keyboarded?) by Mary Annis–President of the Dover Foxcroft Historical Society and Secretary of Valley Grange #144 in Guilford, Maine. Set in the early 1900’s, Annis tells the story of how the “young whippersnapper” Henry Bodwell became the first county agent in Piscataquis County and met with a great deal of resistance from “UncleFrank” Merrill, the master of the South Dover Grange who was best described as “240 pounds of pure sarcasm.”

Over 300 farmers and their wives were in attendance to hear “Uncle Frank”, as the popular Grange Master was known throughout the county, expound on what he thought of the appointment [of Bodwell as County Agent]. From his remarks, nobody doubted that the going ahead would be anything but smooth for the young man that “Uncle Frank” had so sarcastically referred to as that little “whipper snapper.”

Well-researched, the article includes stories as told by Bodwell himself and will help readers understand the important role the Grange played in Agriculture and the community in general. The story of how the “young whippersnapper” wins over “Uncle Frank” and his fellow farmers is a timely lesson even though it happened 100 years ago. It takes some creativity on his part, but the young county agent wins an opportunity to explain to Grangers and farmers that his, “job as County Agent can be compared to just what is happening here on your farm today, namely neighbors cooperating with one another to aid in a common cause.”

View, print, and download the article.

Annis, Mary, “Joseph Henry Bodwell Becomes First County Agent in Piscataquis County” (2017). Cooperative Extension – Agriculture. 14.
https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/extension_ag/14

Blanketeers Help Kids Feel Safe

A diverse group of volunteers were at Valley Grange in Guilford Saturday to help make kids feel safe, according to this report by WABI – TV 5.

”Blanketeers” Make Homemade Blankets

Dover Foxcroft Granges To Be Honored

Valley Grange of Guilford is undertaking a project members hope will preserve an awareness of the historical role of Granges in the area. Funds are being raised to purchase commemorative bricks for the future Central Hall sidewalk. These bricks will honor Granges that used to operate in the Dover Foxcroft area.

Grange Secretary Mary Annis notes that many of Valley’s older members actually joined as a result of consolidation of local Granges as transportation improved and the need for neighborhood Granges diminished. “During the Grange’s expansive growth period, there were actually three Granges located in what is now Dover Foxcroft,” Annis reports. Central  Grange was organized in 1875 (the same year as Valley Grange started in a school-house near Lowe’s Bridge) in what was then Foxcroft. Additional Granges were formed in East Dover in 1879 and South Dover in 1883.

Central Hall actually played a role in the Grange’s development in Maine by hosting the organization’s state-wide conference in the mid-1880’s.

The members of Valley Grange voted to support the restoration of Central Hall from the beginning. Program Director Walter Boomsma expressed that support during early efforts by writing, “As an organization steeped in tradition, we certainly value the preservation of history and we believe tradition is necessary to maintain a strong community identity. Buildings such as Grange halls and community centers like Central Hall (as the very name implies) have served and can continue to serve as a beacon and rallying point.”

Fund-raising for Valley Grange’s project has already been boosted by several donations, including other community Granges in the area. While additional financial support would be welcome, Annis notes that another need is information. “We’d like to list the years each Grange operated,” Annis explained. “While getting the beginning dates has been relatively easy, discovering their entire history has been more of a challenge. We’re hoping anyone who may remember these important community organizations will contact us.” (Thanks to State Grange Historian Stan Howe for his help with this!)

On Friday, January 18th, Valley Grange will host a community potluck supper at 6 PM and meeting at 7 PM which will feature some historical information about local Granges past and present. The public is invited to come and share memories and learn more about the Grange’s role in today’s communities. The Valley Grange Hall is located at the corner of Guilford Center Road and Butter Streets in Guilford.

Those who wish to help with the project can contact Mary Annis at 564-0820. Donations should be sent to Valley Grange, 28 Orchard Road, Dover Foxcroft ME 04426.

Good News Grange!

Pick up a copy of this week’s Piscataquis Times, Somerset Times, or Sebasticook Valley Weekly and see how good your grange is doing! Thanks to Grace Lommel’s “investigative reporting” you’ll discover that a survey of local granges in Piscataquis and Somerset Counties revealed “there’s more good news than bad.”

State of the Grange in Maine

Find out how the Canaan Grange got “saved at the last minute”… how Parkman Grange has more than doubled their membership…

The paper hits the stands today… and it’s free! Thanks, Grace!

Where is this cookbook?

Here is a comment made elsewhere on a post… I’ve copied and pasted it to a new post so it gets noticed:

I was looking for a grange cookbook–dont know what the cover looks like but it has over 350 pages.  My mom had one and it is in rough shape. (She passed away in 2001.) There is a recipe by a member of your grange Mrs. Merwin Lander (Master’s wife). Page 99 has a recipe for five minute fudge. The recipes are from granges all over the United States.

Thanks,

Lori

Okay, folks… anybody know anything about this cookbook… or better yet have one? It sounds like it might have been published by National Grange based on the fact the recipes are from all over the United States. Any help or information you can offer can either be entered here using the comment feature or you can email me and I will forward it to Lori. Let’s show her how helpful Grangers are!

——————————————-

Update! After lots of help both from grangers here and on the MSG site, we helped Lori find her cookbook!

Thank you so very much I just placed an order on amazon for it. sounds like the right one… thank you so very much

Final Update!

Lori says, “Thanks for your help… it was the right one” and she’s very happy!
  
Sincerely Lori

Third Graders, You Can Look It Up!

 The following article is based on a recent press release… view the WABI TV Five News Coverage!

A Guilford Scholar looks it up!

“You can look it up!” becomes the answer to many of the questions third graders have when they have their own dictionaries.  Students from Piscataquis Elementary School in Guilford and SeDoMoCha in Dover Foxcroft can do just that after recently traveling to the Valley Grange Hall in Guilford for some lessons in history and to receive their own dictionary.

For the past seven years Valley Grange members have been providing dictionaries to third graders in the area. The local program is part of a nation-wide effort driven by the Dictionary Project—a non-profit organization based in South Carolina with a goal of assisting all students in completing the school year as good writers, active readers and creative thinkers by providing students with their own personal dictionary

Noting that Valley Grange has expanded the program to now include three districts, Valley Grange Master Jim Annis said, “This has been a fantastic program for us as an organization. It’s got us involved with the children and the schools where we can truly feel we are making a difference and have a lot of fun doing it!”

Program Director Walter Boomsma agrees and says “I never get tired of these kids’ enthusiasm. They just love the idea of having their own dictionary and in the program we do with them we try to get them to understand that they can own not only the dictionary but also all the words in it!”

Sergeant Boothroyd has the children's attention!

An added treat for the visiting students was Sergeant Eric Boothroyd, a civil war re-enactor from Dover Foxcroft. The Sergeant provides a bit of a history lesson and entertainment. He sets the stage for the students to understand how the Grange came into being shortly after the war and continues to be an organization about “people helping each other and the community.”

Boomsma estimates that Valley Grange will distribute around 180 dictionaries this year after traveling to Lagrange, Milo, and Brownville in November.  Parents of homeschooled children are urged to contact their local school or the Grange. Extra dictionaries are also available for children moving into the area.

Central Hall Is Central

Central Hall Today

In 1893 the Maine State Grange conducted its Twentieth Annual Session on December 19, 20, 21 at Central Hall in Dover. In his opening address, then State Master M. B. Hunt said, “The present is but the result of a long succession of the ages.” Over one hundred years later the succession is certainly longer, but the present is still so defined—by the succession of the ages.

There were some 95 Subordinate Granges throughout the state at that time. By way of comparison there were 155 listed in the 2009 roster—an interesting statistic to those who think the “Grange is dying.” Reading the Journal of Proceedings (minutes) of the three day event is certainly interesting—many of the challenges were not much different than today.  We cannot deny that our history is part of us and we are part of our history.

Perhaps because of my involvement with the Grange, I find it somewhat easy to picture those delegates assembling… walking across the road from the Blethen House where no doubt many stayed. I can see them making decisions that would become important parts of the “succession of the ages” and create a new present. 

Thanks to the work of the “Friends of Central Hall” many folks are recollecting other events and occasions and perhaps discovering how appropriate the name “Central” is. For many years, Central Hall was “central” to the lives and times of many. If you’ve missed the opportunity to be nostalgic, visit Central Hall on Saturday, March 6 from 10 am until 2 pm. Organizers are promising  a slideshow with historic photos, a time-line of exhibits of activities from the 1880s through the present, speakers  sharing more recent memories, guided tours (including the basement), and lots more.

At the close of the session over one hundred years ago, the body adopted the following resolution:  “ Resolved, that the members of the State Grange, now about to close, tender their sincere thanks to the citizens of Dover and Foxcroft for their very generous hospitality and attention during this session. “

George Bernard Shaw said, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past but by the responsibility for our future.”  So I can’t help but wonder. Will the Maine State Grange meet at Central Hall again in the future?