“I Feed You All!” is a fantastic motto for farmers, speaks volumes of truth, and encourages the power of unity. Indeed, farmers were the original food movement. Often you may see a bumper sticker proclaiming “No Farms, No Food”. While those of us who have gardens or just a container or two of herbs, vegetables or fruits cannot be classified as farmers, I have to think it means there’s a bit of “farmer” in each of us. At any rate, whether it’s the coffee or tea farmer providing your morning mug of inspiration, or the meat and vegetables on your plate, we can’t live without farmers.
With family and friends, I like attending local Grange dinners. Every 1st and 3rd Wednesday, Wilson Grange #321 serves host to “Open Mic Night” when dinner is served 5-7pm. It’s an opportunity to have a night off from making dinner and converse with neighbors. Where else can you get a fresh cooked meal for $5 and not have clean-up duty?! Hosts are happy to package meals-to-go. I readily take advantage of purchasing a meal or two for future meals at home and think this opportunity would be especially appealing for the busy parent.
The Patrons of Husbandry, or perhaps better known as the “Grange”, was founded in 1867 to advance agriculture and promote economic and social needs of United States farmers. “I Feed You All” is a modification of the Grange motto “I pay for all”. Membership surged in the mid-1870’s with falling crop prices, increased shipping costs, and Congress’s favor of gold and silver, over paper. Members supported political parties such as Greenback, Populist and Progressives. I’ve been encouraged to become a member, but I have never taken the opportunity. My best recollections of Grange participation is as guest speaker or attending their amazing dinners, where I have never failed to find an intriguing assortment of new dishes and old favorites.
The Grange is distinctive for being the oldest, sustained agricultural advocacy group. For over 140 years, Maine Granges have supported farmers and served other rural Maine community needs. Today, Granges are bringing back interest in their work through supporting farming interests, as well as other opportunities for strengthening community connection. Last year, a free community Christmas dinner at Maine Chesterville Grange #20 was organized by owner of Breadweavers, Denisa Krizanova Cundick. Several communities participated in its success with individuals contributing food, festive decorations, and taking a turn as chief bottle washer. Farmington Grange #12 is home to a commercial kitchen, the Winter Farmer’s Market, and contra dances for all ages. Wilson Grange #321 supports a community garden, drumming ceremonies, dictionaries for third graders and the Wilton Food Bank. As for political will, I have been to many a potluck dinner held to bring people together to discuss GMO labeling and food sovereignty. Blue Hill’s Halcyon Grange has voted to support Maine’s Act to Increase Food Sovereignty in Communities.
Nationally, Grange membership has ebbed and flowed with the times. In the 1850’s, according to Stan Howe, State Historian, there were Farmer’s Clubs in Maine. Granges were formed in an effort to bring Farmer’s Clubs together in unification. Grange interests expanded from agriculture to promoting education, libraries, reading and other interests to expand and support rural communities. By 1876, the number of Maine Granges had swelled to two-hundred-twenty-eight. At one time, Maine had the highest per capita membership in the country, with young people encouraged to participate and given voting rights to those as young as 14. Women have readily been welcomed long before women had voting rights. For over 140 years, Maine Granges have supported farmers and served other rural Maine community needs.
My plans are made to attend Friday’s (March 25th) Wilson Grange #321 International Dinner in East Wilton, ME. Minja Nedglikodie, Mt. Blue High School exchange student, will be the speaker who will give a presentation and share her family’s recipe for stuffed eggs. Serbian dishes will be the theme for the evening’s 6pm dinner. Attending allows for a taste of another country’s dishes and learn other aspects of the country.
If you are interested in learning more about Grange activities and program opportunities, visit the Maine State Grange website: www.mainestategrange.org Will I see you at the Wilson Grange International dinner, Friday evening? Call Linda at 645-3388 or 592-4580 for reservations. Or maybe we’ll catch up at one of the 1st and 3rd Wednesday dinners.
Grange events provide opportunity for everyone to experience the power of unity!