2017 Master's Address
National Representative, State Officers,
Pink Sash family members, delegates and patrons all, as I stand here
and present to you my third Master’s address, I reflect on the many
things that have happened over this past year and I struggled with
what to say to you all. This year has had a lot of ups and downs for
the Granges across New Hampshire. Personally, the past three months
have been very difficult for me as the Master of the State Grange.
At the beginning of the June, I was notified that a Grange was considering closing their doors for good and approached me about the process for closing their Grange. I went to meet with them on multiple occasions to explain to them the process, answer their questions about Grange property and what would happen if they decided to close. The members did put forth a valiant effort to get new members into their hall but unfortunately they were unable to rejuvenate interest in their community. On July 10th, they voted to close their Grange. This was a very sad day for me. I do not want to have any more Granges close.
Recently, another Grange decided they too were going to close. They did notify me of their intentions but without adequate notice of when they would be voting to close. Questions about the procedure for closing a Grange were never asked and the Master decided that they knew what to do so no State Grange representation was present. This is not the correct way to perform this procedure and it is not acceptable. Unfortunately they closed their doors without the authorization of the State Master or the State Grange. If it were not for my compassion, sympathy and leniency they would not be closed..
We have had two Grange’s consolidate this past year. The first Grange did notify me and followed the process laid out in the bylaws for consolidating. The second Grange was consolidated by authority of myself and the State Grange Executive committee. The Grange was struggling to meet the requirements and the action was the best thing for them.
Last month, I had to revoke the charters of three Granges for multiple reasons. One of those reasons was that they had made no attempt to communicate with the State Grange and continued to operate under their own rules. Another reason why these charters were revoked was because they were not holding regular meetings with a quorum present.
The bylaws of the National and State Grange’s are in place for a reason. For the past 150 years, these are the rules that we have been operating by. The rules are there for a reason and Granges need to follow them. I am happy to report that one of these Granges has had the revocation lifted and are currently working to become a Grange in good standing. I agreed to give them 12 months to work with the State Grange and come into compliance with the requirements of the bylaws. On a positive note, at their last meeting, I had the pleasure of obligating eight new members into this Grange. I am very hopeful that they will become successful in their community.
A second Grange, that had had its charter revoked has filed for an appeal with the National Master and has been granted a stay in their revocation. The State Grange will be working with this Grange to come into compliance with the bylaws which caused the revocation in the first place. I have assigned a deputy and a state officer to work with them closely to ensure that they adhere to the bylaws and become a productive Grange in their community.
The third Grange had not met for over two years and had basically abandoned their hall. This Grange has now been officially closed and I am in the process of collecting the Grange property and selling their hall. All of these actions are not what I wanted to do this year and if I could have done anything to avoid them I would have.
Unfortunately this is not the end of the consolidating, closing and revoking that has to happen in our State. There are other Granges that are not following or adhering to the bylaws of the National and State Grange’s. I will do my best to work with these Granges to get them into compliance, but this takes the effort of the members of these Granges to get themselves back into compliance with the rules. The State Grange will make every effort to help and support all Granges.
Time and time again I hear members say that the problem is at the State Grange level. In fact the problem is not on a State level, it is on the community level. Granges need to realize that if there is a problem, they need to communicate it to the State Grange so that we can provide help and assistance.
You might ask yourselves why did I start my address with all of this bad news. The reason is because we all need to know the truth about what is happening with the Granges across our state. Not all Granges are in this deteriorated condition and many are thriving. I have been saying, since I was elected to this position, every Grange needs to work on membership. My articles in the GSG have tried to reinforce this message. The membership column in the GSG also has affirmed the issue and offered help. Disappointingly, the membership committee has not had one single request for assistance this entire year.
This is very disturbing especially when we review the membership totals for the year. Our membership numbers are headed in the wrong direction. Instead of staying steady or increasing, we are losing members. This is a trend that we need to reverse. We need to find new members to come and be a part of the Grange. We need to acquire new faces that will become familiar faces. We need to teach and mentor these new people in the workings of the Grange and give them the tools they need to keep the organization going.
The Grange in New Hampshire has lost its identity. We need to find it again and make it viable in this day and age. We need to be able to attract new members, young and old and get them involved. The New Hampshire State Grange needs to establish this identity and provide the Granges with the tools and resources to make it relevant in the community. It is time for the members of the State Grange to consider working with an outside source in hopes that once we have a plan of action, we can be successful. I recommend that the delegates task the State Executive committee to find and work with a person whose job is to help companies establish a plan for Growth and Development.
We need to work with other agricultural based and civil oriented organizations to support the rural living that our state is famous for. More and more people are supporting local businesses and trying to live within the resources available locally. This is the exact movement that the Grange needs to be involved in. The Grange is the perfect place to get grass roots actions started and we offer the perfect platform to bring these actions to the people.
I recommend that the State Grange consider spend some funds on advertising the Grange. This can be through television, magazines and newspapers. We need to dismiss the stigmas associated with our name. We need to show the public that we are not a secretive organization. We need to inform them that we are not just for farmers. We need to reestablish our power in grass roots activision. We need to become the force that we once were so many years ago.
I recommend that we offer incentives to our members for recruiting new members. These need to be real tangible items that members want to strive for. They do not need to be exorbitant or lavish in nature but must be something that members will feel is worthy of their work and time spent recruiting new members. Money is always a good motivator and I can think of no one who wouldn’t mind having some extra cash in their pocket for a minimal amount of labor.
Granges should be aware that the National Master has ruled that members can attend meetings electronically. This is a good incentive for new members who cannot physically be at every meeting to attend. Skype anyone? Conference call? This does not mean that you can have a meeting without a quorum of seven people physical present in the hall but it does mean that everyone can have the opportunity to be included in the decision making process on projects the Grange is working on and provide their input to the meeting..
Granges need to be reminded that the National Grange has instituted the Junior One Plus program. This is an opportunity to have young members join your Grange. It is a perfect opportunity to mentor and raise youngsters in the Grange. We have the opportunity to secure our future through this program. Once we have the juniors involved, we have the opportunity to get the parents involved. It is very important that the Secretaries accurately report these junior members on the quarterly reports.
Granges please remember to communicate with the State Grange. I have had quite a few members bring to my attention that they have not been receiving information from the State Grange. I ask them if they have changed their addresses or their officers to which they reply yes. I then inform them that unless they tell the State Grange that this has happened, how then will we know to where to send the information? The State Grange does send a reporting form for a reason. We use these lists to create the roster that is then given to every Grange. It is very important that this information is kept up to date.
I have been made aware of an issue of Granges struggling to find insurance. It appears that the policy that used to be available for Granges has been discontinued. This is partially because of the lack of Granges in the state and not enough revenue to keep this type of insurance available. This is not just a New Hampshire issue. Granges all over New England are experiencing this same dilemma. I am working on finding a more affordable liability insurance for Granges but this is not an easy or speedy task. I recommend that the State Executive committee work with an insurance agent to find out the feasibility of having an umbrella policy for all the Granges. This will relieve some of the pressure on our Granges.
In conclusion, the members of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry need to start doing something now to control the fate of our organization. Each and every one of us needs to put aside our petty differences and work together to grow our Grange, mentor each other and new members, promote the organization to every and all people we come into contact with, and uplift each other in every aspect of our dealings. It is no longer about who did what or who is doing this or that. It is all about our love and dedication to the Grange that we all have. We all must make it our responsibility to ensure that our beloved Grange survives into the next century. All of us need to do our part. It is the responsibility of every member. Let’s all reaffirm our title of Do’ers in the Grange. Let’s help each other and show that brotherly and sisterly love that we are supposed to have towards each other. We must act now because if we go another year in the direction we’re headed we may just cease to exist.
Christopher E Heath
NH State Grange Master