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Annual Session - Master's Address
Master's Addresses are available for download in PDF form on the downloads page.
Master's Address for year:
Date of Address: October 19, 2023
Session: 139th State Session
State Master / President: Robert Buck

Brothers and Sisters of the Connecticut State Grange,

As I conclude my first year as your State Master, I reflect back on the warm fraternal greetings I have received traveling around the state to visit Granges.  It makes me proud to lead this organization and to count you all as Brothers and Sisters.  There have been some easy times and some challenges but these are all part of what makes this job so rewarding.  In retrospect, reflection has made me realize how the term of my predecessor George Russell was restricted by COVID and I appreciate all the more what he accomplished under those limitations.  I would say Past Presidents F. Philip Prelli, Jody Cameron, Noel Miller, and George Russell have been indispensable mentors in this endeavor and I want to thank them heartily.  They have been available at a moment’s notice and offered counsel, mostly solicited and some not solicited but most necessary in the moment and meant to keep me on the right path.

MEMBERSHIP

When I took office last fall, one of my first calls was from Faith Quinlan who explained that changes in her work situation required that she step down as CSG Membership Director.  Shelley Cameron agreed to take over that position and I thank her for her efforts.

Unfortunately, this year, we lost Pachaug Grange #96 which turned in their charter.  Cawasa Grange #34 has indicated a desire to give up their charter, but there is a matter of a sizable scholarship fund which they hold so that the relation between the Grange and the fund must be settled before the State Grange can accept the surrender of their charter.  Redding Grange #15 continues to grow under the leadership of Elizabeth Jensen and I asked her to join the Membership Committee.  Wallingford Grange #33 is doing well under the leadership of Robin Hettrick with help from Special Deputy and State Grange Assistant Steward Donald Lanoue.  Their revival is being aided by the awarding of ARPA funds for the restoration of Wallingford Grange Hall.  Granby Grange #5 is growing under the reorganizational efforts and leadership of Special Deputy Debbie Vail and State Lecturer Dave Roberts. I have worked with Cannon Grange while the Membership Committee has been in contact with Lyme Grange #147 and Glastonbury Grange #26. I have also aided Greenfield Hill Grange #134 and Harmony Grange #92 with initiation and installation of new members, and helped on other issues as well.

While the Grange statewide has lost an average of 20 members per quarter in recent quarters, quarter two of 2023 saw a net gain of 10 which while small is promising.  I will continue visitations until all Granges have been visited in this term.  I apologize for not getting to more, but the travel distance into Eastern Connecticut and my work schedule sometimes have to be reconciled.

As a benefit to the membership, The State Grange offered a Leadership Academy program based on the book “The 5 Graces of Life and Leadership” by Gregory Burnison.  The book and a syllabus booklet were provided to members at no charge. The program ran from May to September with two Zoom meetings of roughly one hour per month.  Speakers featured were Chris (National Grange VP) and Duane Hamp (Washington State Grange Past President) as well as Rusty Hunt (former National Grange Membership Director) from Washington state, CSG Treasurer Jody Cameron, CSG Secretary Todd Gelineau, former CSG Membership Director Faith Quinlan and current Director Shelley Cameron, CSG Past President Phil Prelli, and FFA Alumnus and Grange member J. Allen Cameron.  The Burnison book is thought provoking and discussions were lively and helpful.  On average, 25 were in attendance, including our National President Betsy Huber on some of the sessions.  A graduation program for the Academy is to be held during the Celebration Banquet.   A version 2.0 is planned so stay tuned to sign up!

Before my term and certainly during its first year, I have noticed conflicts between members on various occasions and been asked to mediate with some of them.  A program on the subject of conflicts and dysfunction in the Grange as their resolution/mediation is planned for the future.  With so few of us, we cannot afford the infighting that has become all too common.  We must work together for the betterment of the Order.

NATIONAL GRANGE

In November, I traveled to the Nugget Casino Resort in Sparks, Nevada for the 156th National Grange Convention.  Maggie was unable to go with me on account of her duties at Kettle Drum Farm, our horse farm and home in Southbury.  As a result, your Board of Directors approved former State Master Jody Cameron as the second delegate.  He helped to lead me through my first convention as your delegate.  Still a prime topic on the agenda is the sale of the National Grange Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  Several offers have fallen through, and as I write this, we have a possible buyer for the building however the contract allows either side to step back from the agreement at any time.  Hopefully, this one will go through and we will know more by the National Convention this November.

After a great day of delegate training, National Grange opened in the Seventh Degree Tuesday afternoon.  I was assigned to the Conservation Committee chaired by Washington State Grange President Tom Gwin.   It was educational as conservation issues and concerns across the country can be very different from those in New England.  I was even asked to rewrite a resolution from Illinois that addressed reevaluating our nation’s energy sources with respect to increased utilization of electric vehicles.  Most of the committee work is done via Zoom prior to the session as we are starting to do here in Connecticut.  It was all very interesting.

The issue of what to do with Pomona Granges is a problem nationwide.  A resolution was passed to create a task force to study this issue, and I was asked by National President Betsy Huber to serve on the Pomona Study Committee because of our Pomona re-organization here in Connecticut. More is to come on this in the section below on Pomona Granges.

In honor of Past Voting Delegate Mildred Bell, I participated in Chaplain Barbara Borderieux’s Memorial Service.  This was an honor as I got to know Millie rather well when I took her Code Reading class as well as a number of years being active  in Southern Connecticut Past Masters with her.
My one gaff in planning the whole trip to National Convention was booking a return flight Sunday night at 12:00 AM.  I had to pass the entire day of Sunday and entertain myself.  Glenn and Kathy Gibson from Massachusetts were in the same plight and we came back east on the same flight.

POMONA GRANGES

The issue of Pomona Granges continues, not only here in our state but across the country.  The general consensus of our National Grange Pomona Study Committee is that there needs to be a level of hierarchical connection between the Subordinate Granges and the State Grange to foster communication from top to bottom and bottom to top.  Therefore the Committee wants to see the Pomona Granges retained.  However, it is clear that Pomona Grange as it exists is not fulfilling its historically stated purpose and as such is wandering aimlessly, and thought by many to be unnecessary if not a waste of time.  It is clear that the purpose of Pomona must be redefined and stated in clear terms, and that Pomona must be given a unique programming format to set it aside from Subordinate and make it relevant to these times in which we live.  The report of the Study Committee will be released at the next National Convention in Niagara Falls this November.

EDUCATION

Education is a very important part of the policy of the Connecticut State Grange.  As such, our Scholarship Committee offers scholarships and student loans to Grange members.  At the last state session, three scholarships of $3000 each and one of $500 were awarded.  The lower amounts go to first year students and the amount increases for upperclassmen.  The awards are based on number of applicants and total amount of money available.  Loans can be given up to $10,000 at a reasonable 5% interest.  Thanks to Nancy Weissmuller (Director), Dawn Percoski, and Nancy Strong for their work on this Committee.

We support the Vocational Agricultural Science Schools and FFA statewide.  This is where many young people who are attracted to an agricultural career get their start and learn the skills through the SAE (supervised agricultural experience) internship part of the program.  The University of Connecticut also offers exceptional education in agriculture.  These educational resources allow young people to enter the agricultural workforce in livestock production, nurseries, greenhouses, orchards, vineyards, aqua-culture, and the often forgotten area of equine farming which by itself adds $39 million to the state’s economy.

Each year, many Community Granges donate to the FFA which helps their members in going to their national convention to participate on judging teams.  Annually, state FFA officers attend our convention in trademark blue jackets and report on their activities.  Maybe your Grange should contact the local FFA and invite them out for a program. I would love to see more of them join Community Granges.

MENTAL HEALTH

Last year at the National Grange Convention in Sparks, the delegates were introduced to Jeff Winton of Rural Minds, an advocacy group promoting awareness about the epidemic of rural suicides.  The group offers resources for those at risk.  This project began after Jeff lost his nephew to suicide.  CSG Lecturer Dave Roberts has formed a partnership between the CSG and Rural Minds.

AGRICULTURE

While Connecticut is small, its 5,521 farms on a little more than 380,000 acres are able to contribute $4 billion to our state’s economy.  As stated above, agriculture in Connecticut is incredibly diverse because as the once prominent dairy industry has shrunken, many farms were forced to diversify into agri-tourism:  pick your own, cut a Christmas tree, corn mazes, etc.  Lyman Orchards in Middlefield has a golf course as well as an event facility for rent while March Farms in Bethlehem has horse riding trails now.  Jones Farm in Shelton is incredibly diverse in their offerings, including their winery.  This is necessary in today’s economy to make these farms self-sustaining.  Farm stands and farmer’s markets abound in our state.

Thanks to Noel Miller and Dave Roberts for manning our Connecticut State Grange booth at Ag Day at the Capitol in Hartford on Wednesday, March 22.  I was unable to attend due to work.  The Agricultural Committee Chairman Aaron Jacques was also unable to make it due to a job interview.  Noel had a very nice display set-up for the event.

I hope that the Connecticut State Grange will continue to support the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut, as well as the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Stations in New Haven (main campus), Hamden, Windsor, and Griswold(research farms at the latter three).  These are absolutely essential to necessary research for the continuance of agriculture in Connecticut.

Hot topics in agricultural circles this year are WOTUS (Waters of the US), the ESA (Endangered Species Act), and the Farm Bill which expired 9/30/2023.  The definition of what constitutes such waters has been changed by the EPA and in effect the covered waters have been reduced.  The ESA was affected by changes laws concerning certain insecticides like those known as neonicotinoids known to be harmful to the insects that many birds feed upon  and therefore a detriment to avian life.  The Farm Bill covers nutrition assistance or SNAP (76%), crop insurance (9%), conservation (7%), commodities (7%), and “other” (1%, and includes credit, research, rural development, energy, forestry, horticulture, trade, etc.).

The Fifth Congressional District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes hosted Glenn “GT” Thompson, Chair of the House Agricultural Committee here in Connecticut for a Farm Bill listening session in late July.  She has been an outstanding voice for agriculture in the State of Connecticut.

OFFICERS AND DIRECTORS

The officers and directors have done a stellar job for the Connecticut State Grange.  Among the officers, I commend Vice President Ted Powell for helping with Grange inspections.  He and I are in regular contact about matters of import to the CSG.   Assistant Steward and Special Deputy Don Lanoue has been indispensable in guiding the reformation of Wallingford Grange#33.  Deputy Debbie Vail has been a great help in guiding Granby Grange #5 and along with Lecturer Dave Roberts, keeping me informed of the happenings there.   General Deputy Peter Keefe and Deputy Ted Beebe have also been a great help with inspections.   Through my re-instituted inspection process, I have a better feeling for where Subordinate Granges stand.  Also I offer a shout out to our Chaplain Charles Dimmick; I always enjoy reading your inspiring monthly messages.  To the officers I have not mentioned by name, thank you for your commitment to the State Grange.

Now that I am your State President, I know that truly, Todd Gelineau never sleeps, or he has a way to lengthen time so that he can get done what needs to be done.   He keeps me abreast of Grange happenings and problems that need to be addressed in between Board meetings.  I have never heard him say he didn’t have time to get something done.  Thank you Todd!

The Board of Directors continues to meet monthly on Zoom as this has proven to be effective and efficient.  I commend Alma Graham, our Chairperson, for the fine job leading the group.  The balance of the committee consists of Ruel Miller, Noel Miller, George Russell, Nancy Strong, Jody Cameron (Treasurer) and Todd Gelineau (Secretary).   They are a great group with which to work, and each contributes special talents to our job.

The Board of Directors has handled some tough issues from disposing of Grange halls to establishing the alcohol policy for the State Grange, among others. For handling the real estate aspects of Grange hall disposal, I would particularly thank Jody Cameron.  With all he has done, he could probably pass the real estate licensing exam!

CLOSING COMMENTS

I have considered the past year as your State President to be an honor and privilege.  Visiting and helping Granges where needed has been fun.  I spent an enjoyable day at the Hamburg Fair and commend those Grangers and fair volunteers for an outstanding production.  One memorable challenge was visiting Stonington and North Stonington Granges on consecutive nights.  I want to thank Maggie as she has been helpful where possible, accompanying me on many visitations.  Her farm duties limit her involvement.  She has also written articles for the Granger in the form of interviews with Hank. 

I know that there are always decisions by the Board of Directors and policies of the State Grange that some may not like or may outright disagree with.  Remember that we act in the best interests of the State Grange and have to manage the organization in a fiscally responsible way.  I hear comments from time to time about “all that money that the State Grange has” but you have to realize it is not all fluid in a way that can be spent willy-nilly on just anything.

After this 139th Annual State session, I will be preparing to leave for the 157th National Convention at the Sheraton At The Falls, in Niagara, New York. I have never been to Niagara before so it should be a great experience.
Thank you for your confidence in me to be the leader of this great fraternity!

Fraternally,

Robert Buck
President

 
     
     
       
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