Ashland Summit a Great Success

2015 - Green Grangers Summit

Bellview Grange, Ashland, OR – November 10, 2015: The  Sixth Green Granger Summit was held at the Bellview Grange #759 in Ashland Oregon on October 23-25, and it was a rousing success. Over 50 people attended from a variety of Oregon and California Granges including Oregon State Grange Agriculture Committee Director Jay Sexton. Many locals from Bellview were there. Bellview won an award from the State for adding the most members this year, going from 8 to 45.

Activities started on Friday when Bellview member and local farmer Chris Hardy held a seed saving workshop well attended by 25 people. A Seed Celebration included vendors, seed cleaning demos courtesy of George Stevens of Synergy Seeds, a free seed exchange and a ceremony for initiating a Seed Club to promote the sharing and growing of heirloom and GMO-free seeds were open to a very appreciative public.

Saturday morning Summit attendees were treated to a play reading based on Vicki Robin’s “Transformations” adapted by Bellview Grange Lecturer Pete Cotton and directed by Grange Master and Director of Theatre Convivio Richard Heller.  Speakers, discussion sessions and strategic planning and action items were conducted all day Saturday and most of Sunday.  A Panel Discussion of the question “What is a “Green Grange” had Oregon Agricultural Director Jay Sexton, California State Guild leader Bob McFarland and Bellview Grange member Leif Brecke discussing Grange traditions, strengths and history and conducting a question and answer time with the audience.

Saturday night’s keynote address by local farm organization Our Family Farms Coalition Director Elise Higley was an inspiring mix of news from her trip to DC to oppose HR1599, a national bill that would preempt state’s rights to label GMOs and nullify local biotech regulations. Elise presented a brief summary of Jackson and Josephine County GMO Crop Ban history and the current lawsuits. Questions and discussion ranged from ensuring a safe and uncontaminated seed supply, to the economic viability of small local farms, to the role Granges can play in farming’s future.

Many relevant topics were discussed throughout the Summit. One attendee defined “green grange” as ‘Any grange that’s trying to be relevant to today’s concerns’, although other definitions were voiced, as well. The biggest topic at the Summit was the viability of the Grange organization, which has been losing members steadily over the years, and is now mainly attended by long-time members of some Granges. Some granges around the region have so few members they may have to close. The Green Granger movement has had success bringing in new members with new concerns relevant to today, such as the viability of genetic engineering, how to reduce toxic pesticide use, local vs. global seed sourcing, and others.  Willits Grange Member and Director of the Willits Farm School gave an inspiring and informative talk on “How to Attract Intergenerational Participation in Granges”.  Viable futures as well as tradition and history were frequent topics at the Summit.

On Sunday morning presentations by Rogue Climate on Climate Change, Rising Tide on opposing the Jordan Cove LNG pipeline and an art narrative by Catie Faryl, a backcast vision called “A View from 2050”, rounded out information on regional views, issues and actions. Summit participants had a choice of three break-out sessions followed by the convening of a full circle to decide on the next action steps. Many ideas were offered on how to keep Granges viable and relevant in a climate of corporate investing and lobbying and expansion of monoculture and industrial farming, as well as opportunities for expanding healthy local food systems and preserving and increasing non GMO seed growing sanctuaries in regions like Jackson and Josephine County where a huge portion of the world’s natural seeds are grown. After gathering a wealth of information, videos and photos the Bellview Grange will be busy processing and gaining consensus of possible directions  to bring to the June 2016 State Legislative Session at our neighboring Grange in Phoenix, Oregon.

Many attending from other Granges remarked on the success of the summit.  Peggy Jillson from the Irving Grange in Eugene said “It was wonderful to ‘grange’ with these people. It’s a little strange to be an old Granger (20 years) among the new Bellview folks. In Eugene I’m considered still a ‘kid’. But Bellview is coming off great successes in political and legal areas. They can achieve even more and inspire other Granges. They are ‘granging’ down here!”  Bellview Grange members particularly appreciated the support and guidance offered by members of Hood River, Mapleton, Irving, Williams and other seasoned Granges.

Kathleen Hering, an aspiring new member said, “I’m impressed at how smart and skilled people have been at moving forward in a healthy way. The process is creative. My heart is with Green Grangers, and I’ve been saying for years that small farmers will save us. Everyone must realize their responsibility to help Granges be sustainable.”

Jay Sexton, Director of Agriculture at the State Grange and Marys River Grange member, said: “The event was well-organized and well attended. The infrastructure was good, but adaptable to our changing needs. We had great conversations on different topics. It was good to reflect on Bellview’s experience with the GMO Ban and pro-active focus. We all are pondering the questions Who are we as the Grange? Where are we going?”

The Green Granger Summit wrestled with those complex questions and developed some action topics on the last day. Emerging focus was the idea of putting farm land into Land Trust to protect it for future farmers, and ways to affect local politics to support small farms.

Catie Faryl
Bellview Grange #759
Ashland, Oregon

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