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Around The Grange
California's Springfield Grange gets a new life

By Todd Guild, Register-Pajaronian, California (1/10/12)

  JANUARY 18, 2012 --

Once a vibrant community center for the rural areas around Las Lomas, California, the 70-year-old Springfield Grange hall has sat largely dormant for the past 10 years, serving only as an occasional meeting spot for a Filipino church.

Now, a local group has revitalized the hall and already boasts 65 members, said president Alan Hicks.

The grange is so new, in fact, that the group doesn’t yet have an official name. Members are leaning toward Watsonville-Springfield Grange, Hicks said.

Watsonville City Councilman Lowell Hurst, who taught agricultural-related subjects in Pajaro Valley Unified School District for 32 years, said he joined the new grange because he liked their mission.

“I saw that there were good things happening and I wanted to give them my support,” he said.

Grange organizations were launched in the mid-1800s. 

According to Hurst, their original intent was to protect local farmers from large landowners, railroad barons and people who control agricultural markets.

The halls eventually evolved into community meeting spaces for the people living in rural areas.

“It’s a place for the community to gather and discuss issues and have fun community activities that bring people together,” Hicks said. 

Grange organizations now have 200,000 members in 2,700 communities in 37 states, according to the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry.

Hicks, a Corralitos resident, said he was inspired to revitalize the Springfield Grange when he visited the hall in Santa Cruz and learned of the myriad activities held there and the varied community groups that use the space. 

He also learned that the remaining Springfield Grange was not in use. Additionally, he was told that a rift there was pitting the remaining members who wanted to keep the grange alive against those who wanted to sell the building and use the proceeds to fund the Prunedale Grange.

After a back-and-forth debate with some members of the former Springfield Grange, the California State Grange association ordered that the keys be handed to the new administration, Hicks said.

“We saw the hall, and saw the opportunity for it to be used for all kinds of groups that don’t have a space,” he said.

As it ramps up, the new grange plans on hosting a wide range of community groups including Flamenco dancers and El Teatro Campesino, Hicks said. 

Additionally, members plan to hold events that focus on sustainable agricultural practices and community involvement, which will include building community gardens on the grange’s five-acre property.

On Jan. 24, California Assemblyman Luis Alejo and Watsonville City Councilman Lowell Hurst will give a proclamation honoring the new grange, Hicks said.

“That really fits in with our philosophy,” Hicks said.

Still on the agenda will be traditional community fundraisers such as pancake breakfasts. With a nod to the grange’s cultural diversity, however, they are considering adding tamales and menudo to the menu. 

Events such as movie nights and barbecues are also a possibility, he said.

Members are also planning a farm stand featuring locally produced items such as organic produce, food products created with local ingredients as well as craft items.

“They are doing all the good things a grange is supposed to do,” Hurst said.

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