Back to the Grange

by alexandrakellyg

Growing up in Maine, I have become quite familiar with what a grange hall looks like.  My earliest memories involve bean suppers at Escatarsis Grange Hall, the four story paint-chipped white building on the corner of Tannery Road in Lowell, Maine. Right next door to the post office.  Three-quarters of the town gathered at 4:45 pm to eat pies, mashed potatoes and bowls full of beans.  These community gatherings only really required space.

The history of the grange hall goes back to the late 1800s when farmers used the space as a way to organize efforts to keep agriculture local.  There were also dances and dinners, but organizing for local, economic solidarity played a key role.

Although identifying grange halls in rural Maine has become second nature to me, I was surprised to find out that the term ‘grange’ has been adopted for locations beyond big buildings with chipped paint and a front porch.  The Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop in New York City, connects people in the city through “green business and good food.” The rooftop represents a network of urban farmers that are tending crops in community gardens, fire escapes and other urban nooks. (The grange was not built without structural difficulties – one million pounds of dry dirt is a lot for one roof to hold.)

Brooklyn Grange - Photo Courtesy of Manchester Pub NY

I am curious about other grange halls around the country.  It seems like this movement towards sustainable living, will inspire people to go back to the grange, connecting a new generation of farmers as they learn from each other, strengthening their crops, their communities and their voice.

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