Founded in 1867, the Grange is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, fraternal organization that advocates for rural America and agriculture. With a strong history in grassroots activism, family values and community service, the Grange is a part of 225 communities across Pennsylvania. The Grange has four levels, community, county or district, state, and national to ensure that the membership’s voice is heard at the appropriate place.
Greene County has four Granges. On the community level, they are Harveys-Aleppo in Graysville, Carmichaels and East Franklin in Waynesburg. The three Granges meet together quarterly the second Saturday of each quarter as the county-level Pomona Grange. The meetings are held in one of the local Grange halls on a rotating basis.
To celebrate nearly 150 years of existence, April has been designated as National Grange Month. On Thursday, April 2, the Greene County commissioners got involved in the celebration by proclaiming April Grange Month in the county during their regular meeting, which was attended by county Grange members.
Mary Jane Kent, president of the Harveys-Aleppo Grange, said current membership in Greene County hovers around a couple hundred. To call attention to Grange Month locally, members will create a window display sometime this month at the First Federal Savings and Loan on E. High Street in Waynesburg.
Originally formed to help farmers and largely composed of farmers, the organization has taken a more inclusive direction lately as the number of family farms in the nation has been decreasing.
“We consider ourselves a grass roots organization because there’s no one at the top telling us what to do,” Kent said.
One of the Grange’s main concerns is advocating for issues affecting local members. On the local level, any member can bring before the meetings an issue for consideration. If the local board approves, the issue is passed along to the Pomona Grange, then to the state level if appropriate. If the state Grange votes on approving the measure, Grange lobbyists in Harrisburg then advocate for passing appropriate legislation.
“If the issue has national ramifications, lobbyists in Washington advocate for the measure,” Kent said.
Community service is another Grange focus. Locally, the Aleppo Grange gives an annual scholarship worth no less than $500 to a senior at West Greene High School. The funding comes from profits from the Bingo games held at the Jacktown Fair each summer. The Grange also sponsors events at its meeting hall such as hunter-trapper safety courses, taught by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and safe driver courses offered by AARP. At the events, the Grange often serves refreshments and lunch.
On major election years, the Grange also hosts meet-and-greet the candidates events. At 7 p.m. on April 20, for instance, the Aleppo Grange will host a meeting to which every candidate seeking county office and those seeking municipal office in Western Greene County have been invited.
“We don’t endorse any particular candidate but only give them a platform on which they can meet the public,” Kent said.
The Grange also honors a Granger of the Year as well as a community citizen such as a superintendent of schools, even fire departments. “We invite them in and present them with a certificate,” Kent said. “In the case of a fire department, we also give them a monetary allotment.”
The Grange also maintains a Patriot Program, meant to honor our nation’s veterans. This year, the Aleppo Grange hopes to offer its veterans’ program sometime around Memorial Day.
For a small fee, the Grange makes their halls available to organizations and private events such as birthday and anniversary parties and bridal and baby showers, although no alcoholic beverages are permitted to be served.
The annual Grange membership fee varies by local community, but an initial $5 fee is assessed, which goes to the state level. Each year, the four county Granges set up a display at the Greene County Fair and provide information about their organizations. Individual members may also enter livestock, produce and other goods for judging independent of the Grange.
Members receive a bimonthly newsletter titled “The Advocate,” which Kent said is a wealth of information that includes a list of pertinent issues under consideration at the state and national levels. Every two years, members also get a copy of the Guide, a list of Grange competitions, activities and services.
The Pennsylvania Grange always schedules a convention in October that moves around each year to a different location. This year, the state Grange convention will be held from October 16 through 19 in Warren.
“Next year, when we’ll be celebrating our 150th anniversary, the national convention will be held in Washington, DC, which will be co-hosted by the Pennsylvania Grange,” said Marty Dinsmore, president of the Pomona Grange from Wind Ridge and Kent’s sister.
Both women have been Grange members all their lives as have their two brothers, Bob Dinsmore of Frederick, Maryland, and Jamie Dinsmore of Uniontown. All four siblings are Golden Sheath members who have had more than 50 years of continuous service in the Grange.
Both Dinsmore brothers own family farms in Richhill Township, although they are farmed by other family members.
“Bob has a farm equipment and supply business, while Jamie is a CPA,” Kent said.
Marty Dinsmore is a retired secretary for the legislature in Harrisburg while Kent works for Economic Development in Greene County.
The Harveys-Aleppo Grange meets at 7 p.m. the second Monday of each month at 106 Grange Road in Graysville. Phone 724-428-3576.
The Carmichaels Grange meets at 7:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month at the intersection of Ceylon Road and Route 21 in Carmichaels. William Humbert is president. For more information, call 724-943-4173.
The East Franklin Grange meets at 7:30 the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 2262 Smith Creek Road in Waynesburg. Bonnie Smouse is president. Fore more information, call 724-627-6946.