Friday, March 25, 2011

Attitude Lessons from Wyoming

This week I am traveling throughout Wyoming visiting with members about the future of their Grange. I am enjoying the time traveling with my wife, seeing some country I’ve never seen before, and meeting people who are dedicated Grangers.

Attitude is what I’m noticing. A few tell of the trials and tribulations of the Grange and some state to me why they can’t be successful. But others are excited to hear that the National Grange is concerned and wants to help their Grange be successful.

Some of the most positive ones that I’ve spoken with are the ones that others said were not interested in the Grange. Once again the lesson that we cannot assume what others think has been reinforced on my mind.

Wyoming Granges have a way to go, but from the people I’ve met I have no doubt that they will achieve success in the future. Whatever they accomplish will be due to a positive attitude that they share with others as they work together.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Grange Principles

In 1891, J. H. Brigham in his annual address made the following statement.

"We should not lose sight of the cardinal principles of our Order, viz., the absolute political and religious freedom of the individual. No official, not even our National body, can place restrictions upon this freedom. Officials may give expression to individual views. A majority of the members of the National Grange may endorse certain propositions involving question of political economy affecting the material interests of citizens, such as tariff or finance, but in no case is a member of our Order bound by such action or expression of opinion unless his own judgment shall approve.

"The membership of the Grange can be committed to no party, to no individual, to no religious creed, to no political theory or policy, by any act of any official, or by any resolution adopted by Subordinate, State, or National Grange. Any other position upon these propositions means disintegration and death.

"This need not hinder discussion nor expression of opinion by members acting individually or collectively. All measures which are of especial interest to farmers should be viewed from all points. Give the people the benefit of any phase of opinion and then they can draw intelligent conclusions.

"Absolute freedom of opinion, upon all public questions, is a right not restricted but rather guaranteed and protected by the fundamental law of our Order."

Brigham's statement is as true today as it was when he spoke those words to the delegates of the National Grange in Springfield, Ohio in November of 1891.

There is not a member who agrees with every policy that has been adopted by the National Grange nor with every statement made by any of the leaders of our organization. Just as in 1891, we expect each member to engage in debate on the issues of the day and through discussion find consensus for our organization while allowing each member to follow their own path.

Considering the name calling and uncivil behavior occurring in Congress and State Legislatures throughout our great nation, I'm glad the Grange has remained true to its fundamental principles and serves as a place where all good people can continue to gather and exchange their views.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Who Is Really On Your Side?

I saw in the paper that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), not the folks running your local humane society, has begun efforts to put a ballot measure before the people of Washington to ensure the humane treatment of laying hens. You may wonder if this is good or bad news or is this just one of those things we hear about but don’t need to worry ourselves over?

I live in Oregon so this doesn’t impact me directly, but I am familiar with the ballot initiative process and believe that it is a great process that holds our legislatures feet to the fire occasionally. Once in a while it also gives well organized groups the chance to bring outside-the-mainstream ideas to the front of public debate.

The subject of humane treatment of laying hens does give me pause. I don’t know anyone who is opposed to treating hens, farm animals, pets, or wildlife in anything less than a humane way. However, I went on the HSUS website to see how they view this issue.

They mention factory farms, all the successful legislation they’ve supported, how they are out to protect animals, and how to donate your money to them. Now from what I’ve picked up it would appear that their idea of protecting animals includes being a vegan since in several places they promote that lifestyle. Now I have no problem with anyone who wants to live a vegan lifestyle, but most folks I know want a more traditional diet which includes some meat, dairy, and eggs.

HSUS offends me with their mention of factory farms. I grew up on a small cow calf operation where we fed out about 10 steers annually for our customers. Since that time, I’ve seen a wide variety of operations and I can’t recall every seeing a factory farm. I have seen concerned and caring people taking care of animals. That’s right, farmers taking care of livestock, not factory workers assembling widgets.

HSUS does seem to know how to raise immense amounts of money from their TV commercials and other fund-raising efforts. But from what I understand, they only spend a tiny fraction of their income on actually helping animals directly; the rest is spent on employees and efforts and causes such as the Washington ballot measure.

The HSUS representative is quoted in the Capital Press as wanting “to move to a cage-free system”. Eggs are one of the cheapest nutrient dense foods available to people in this country. What is the goal I wonder? Do we desire to reduce the amount of eggs available for purchase, thereby driving the price up? Do some want to end portions of production agriculture so that each person needs to provide for themselves or do without?

Like many small farms, the one I grew up on had a chicken house and caring for chickens for eggs and meat was part of our daily chores. Daily, I saw how many wild animals viewed those chickens as an easy meal. Would HSUS support hindering or harming the multitude of hungry predators in order to save the chickens? After viewing their website, I’d have to guess they would encourage us not to eat chicken while the coyotes were feasting on that same poultry.

We haven’t even seen the end result of California’s ballot measure 2 passed in 2008, due for implementation in 2015, and its impact on the farmers caring for the chickens laying the eggs and now HSUS wants to try it in the State of Washington?

The Grange is about giving people the facts and letting them make informed decisions. We don’t hide who we are. We support agriculture, from the smallest farmer with a few acres to the largest production farmer. We also represent the consumer who benefits from the fruits of the labor of the farmer. Maybe HSUS should consider following our example. Educate yourself on who HSUS is and do your own research on the Grange. Then decide who you want to trust more.

I don’t believe that HSUS is on our side. Definitely they are not on the side of those caring for chickens, and not on the side of the consumers of all those eggs. Our Washington friends should think twice before signing an initiative petition.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unity and Agreement

This past weekend was the annual President's Meeting which is held for the benefit of the State Grange Presidents. This morning I have been looking at Facebook posts and emails as well as thinking about the comments and a few phone calls about the weekend. I've also been dealing with a few emails from other members who are unhappy about specific things.

The partisan nature of politics and the trends in our society are counter to what Grange membership is really supposed to mean. Our organization is about bringing folks together and dealing with the big problems. We are about finding the issues where we have unity, even when we don't have complete agreement.

I can't remember ever attending a Grange meeting where everyone was in agreement. Just as this past weekend, the participants at the President's Conference disagreed with each other over many issues and even proposed a variety of solutions. Yet in spite of their disagreements, they also found unity in the goals that were set. Each was given the opportunity to propose, question, and comment regardless of their personal opinion, and at the end I believe that we found a unity of purpose.

While many groups demand agreement among their members, the Grange remains faithful to its principles that we will search for and find unity on the big issues and encourage the exchange of differing points of view among our members. I have to admit, its a bit boring when everyone agrees.

Unity and agreement are not the same to my Grange influenced point of view. It is fine to disagree and debate the issue, but unity is the result when we as a group decide on the direction.