2010-01-14 / News

Conanicut Grange Report

By Bob Sutton
The National Grange Organization was founded in 1867 and is this country’s oldest farm organization. It was formed immediately after the Civil War in response to the reconstruction period and the economic depression that followed.

Among the nation’s isolated rural family farm community, the Grange stressed the importance of fraternity, organization, education and cooperation as a strategy for confronting the severe local farm problems of the time.

It continues to exist to this day, holding to those founding principles.

The Jamestown chapter, the Conanicut Grange, was organized consistent with these principles in 1880 and survives today primarily because Grange Master Charlotte Richardson has had the wisdom, energy and organizational skill to bring the Conanicut Grange and the Conanicut Grange building on West Street into the 21st century.

The Jamestown Farm Viability Committee formed in 2004 with local goals and principles not unlike those that founded the National Grange (fraternity, organization, education and cooperation). Even in a small community, the profession of farming tends to be isolating. Long work days in fields, tending animals and second jobs provide little opportunity for any contact with other farmers, even when that contact could create cooperation and be professionally beneficial, as well as time and work saving. It became clear to Jamestown farmers that we had to be more proactive in promoting the community value of a sustainable local farming economy, and the availability and superiority of local agricultural products.

The starting point seemed obvious and in 2005, all the farm families in Jamestown joined the Conanicut Grange with the same expectations and energies of the Grange founding fathers – to maintain and build a strong, sustainable agricultural economy in Jamestown. We meet monthly at the Conanicut Grange Hall to accomplish that goal.

Building a local sustainable farm economy is completely consistent and supportive with building a strong sustainable community of Jamestown. It works “hand in glove” with development, local solar and wind energy, local Village retail, local transportation networks (bike paths, trails and sidewalks), and local entertainment, recreation, etc.

Well, it is the 21st century, not 1867, and although the energies, ideals and necessary organizational skills and abilities of the past are still relevant, many of the techniques of communicating these ideals and ideas have changed. Communication has become computerized, digitized and an essential skill for creating local sustainability.

Each month, this column will tell you something neat or interesting about your local farmer neighbors, as well as what produce

is available at the farms during that month. If you’re motivated, skillful and interested in the principles of fraternity, organization, education and cooperation – and interested in helping us develop a sustainable local agriculture – feel free to join us at the Conanicut Grange.

In other Grange news:

• Davis Archer, a resident of Jamestown, will graduate from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., this spring. Archer completed his four-year degree program in natural resources in just three years. While at Cornell, he managed “The Market Garden,” a student-operated university vegetable farm with a focus on experimental learning and exploring methods of sustainable agriculture. Archer has also worked at Jamestown’s Windmist Farm as a farmhand during the summer and as a high school student, he worked regularly at the Jamestown Community Farm

• Wildlife watch: Farm pastures, barns and outbuildings provide winter habitat for a variety of wildlife. During your next winter walk, cross country ski or bike ride, look for animal tracks in the snow. Birds, small mammals, deer and coyote are all out searching for food during times of cold weather. You’ll be amazed at the activity you can see recorded in a fresh blanket of snow!

• Next meeting: The Conanicut Grange meets at 7 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at Grange Hall at 6 West St. in Jamestown.

• What’s available in Jamestown: Chase Farm, North Road, horse hay, home-knit wool caps, 423-9767; Watson Farm, North Road, grass-fed Red Devon beef, lamb, Conanicut Island and Rhody Warm wool blankets. Hours are Thursday, 3 to 6 p.m.; Windmist Farm, 71Weeden Ln., grassfed beef products, fresh eggs. Hours are Friday, 3 to 5 p.m., and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Jamestown Community Farm, Rosemary Lane, dried beans (excellent for winter soup, baked beans), 423-0910.

• What’s available in R.I.: Visit www.farmfresh.org for information on winter farmer’s markets.

Editor’s note: Bob Sutton’s column the ‘Conanicut Grange Report’ will appear in the Jamestown Press monthly.

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