Editor's note: This is the first part of a two-part article.
There was insurrection and hatred. Politics were tearing families apart – brother against brother and sister against sister. Disconnected, disoriented, disillusioned and discouraged people were spread across the country.
Land was lost. Lives were lost. Media outlets were polarized to conservative or liberal viewpoints. And a longing for truth, belonging, community and a way forward was pervasive across the land.
So it was in the United States after the Civil War ended in 1865.
In 1867 an organization was formed to address the problems sapping the vitality from the country. The National Grange of the order of the Patrons of Husbandry offered an opportunity for people to better their communities and their nation through engagement, fraternity and service.
What started as an effort to engage people and heal the nation is now the nation’s oldest fraternal organization advocating for agriculture and rural America.
Betsy Huber is president of the National Grange; she’s the first woman to lead the organization.
“The times today are so similar to the way it was after the Civil War,” she said. “The country is so divided. The Grange has a lot to offer; we are nonpartisan, we disagree. We come to Grange meetings and discuss issues. We can disagree strongly on issues, but we leave as friends. That is so much needed in today’s world.
“People, including my own family, were just so busy before the pandemic. They were running from one activity to the next. That suddenly stopped. With the pause in life, people are rethinking their activities and are selecting the things that really make them happy – that help the community, that provide service. The Grange offers those things to people. We are a social organization. We include the whole family; the family can participate together while serving their community.
“The Grange has always encouraged members to participate in government. It’s so important that we have the right to vote, the right to express our opinions freely in the country. We educate each other on issues. We train youth. We have a Junior Grange for children from ages 5 to 14. They have their own meetings and elect their own officers. That teaches leadership, involvement in community and public engagement. Early last year we had a Washington, D.C., experience for young people from age 11 to 30. We taught them how to have a successful appointment with their member of Congress. We worked on issues important to these young people, had workshops on those topics and then took them to Capitol Hill for meetings with their Senators, House Members and their staff members. The Grange doesn’t just preach involvement; we help young people learn how to be involved.”
April is Grange Month. Visit www.nationalgrange.org for more information.
To be continued ...
Jason Maloney is an “elderly” farm boy from Marinette County, Wisconsin. He’s a retired educator, a retired soldier and a lifelong Wisconsin resident. He lives on the shore of Lake Superior with his wife, Cindy Dillenschneider, and Red, a sturdy loyal Australian Shepherd.