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National Grange News
National Master Luttrell generates optimism

By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade, “Lancaster Farming”- Lancaster, PA- 12/14/07

  DECEMBER 2007 -- National Grange Master Ed Luttrell has often said there should be only one “boring” Grange in the U.S., his home Grange of Boring-Damascus Grange in Oregon. Luttrell, who was elected as National Master in November, is looking to infuse a renewed excitement in the organization.
While new to the office, Luttrell is laying out an ambitious plan. Expansion of the membership in existing Grange states, establishing new state Granges and empowering Grangers to continue their grassroots efforts to improve their communities are just a few of his goals.
The National Grange, Patrons of Husbandry, was established in 1867 in the aftermath of the Civil War to give farmers a collective voice, establishing the oldest agricultural grassroots organization.
With less than 2 percent of the population involved in agriculture, Grange, like most organizations, must adapt to the world around it to remain viable. The organization’s strength, Luttrell believes, are the things that have not changed, its strong family values and grassroots base.
“The principles that have carried our organization from day one have made us successful. The evolving part of it is how relate to people as our communities change,” he said.
Metropolitan areas now engulf some Granges, which when established were in the country. “The number of people that claim to be making a living from farming is very, very small now. Like every other organization, we have to adapt to the change in the community and retain those things of value,” he said.
The inclusion of the community as a whole, Luttrell believes, can be an effective tool in establishing sound agriculture policy. “It gives us a unique and powerful position,” he said of the organization. “The one advantage, we have urban people, the folks who live in the suburban communities, we have the persons who live in the rural areas as well as those who farm. We can become far more effective in educating the general public in the importance of agriculture and the importance of the well-being of agriculture,” he said.  A ballot referendum detrimental to agriculture was defeated in Oregon in part because of the Grange’s voice in the urban and suburban centers. Billboards and banners fighting against the referendum were placed at Grange halls in the metropolitan areas.
“We were able to put the message out in very prominent ways because we were already there,” he said.
Agriculture’s future success, Luttrell believes, is in the cultivation of allies. Farmers need to build support outside of the industry, cultivating doctors, lawyers and professionals to fight for American agriculture. Grange itself will continue to partner with other organizations that line up with them on national policies.
Two critical issues Luttrell sees facing the industry are land use and water policy. While states have attempted to tackle land use, few have yet to develop effective policy to sustain farmland. And as water is required for urban areas and wildlife, Luttrell said, agriculture in some states is put at risk.
For rural America, he said, Granges need to work on finding ways to retain young people who desire to remain there. Today’s youth are leaving the countryside because they cannot find quality work. “The future of our country means we have to keep the rural part of our country healthy and growing,” he said.
For this son of an Oregon cow/calf and hay farmer, his journey into Grange is a unique one. Luttrell is only the second National Master to come from west of the Mississippi and one of only a couple of Masters to serve in this capacity under the age of 50. He is the only Master in recent history to be elected to the position without prior national officer experience.
“The thing that hooked me was when I attended my first meeting as a full member at 14. I realized that I could stand up and argue against my parents (on an issue) and leading citizens of our community would let me do that,” he said. “I had that freedom to express my own opinions. It has always been the empowering factor for me.”
From that discovery of empowerment, Luttrell moved through the ranks of the organization. His accomplishments include Oregon State Outstanding Young Granger, Oregon State Outstanding Young Couple with his wife Celia, and moving through ranks of leadership in the state organization as state membership committee member, state gatekeeper and state youth director.
He was elected Oregon State Master from 1996-2000. Before his national Master election, he was the National Grange leadership/membership development director.
The world is very different from the one Grange was founded in. When asked what the founding members would think about today’s Grange, Luttrell said after they got over the shock of what the world looks like, they would be pleased. “They would be impressed that the Grange has prospered and that we are willing to look at ourselves in the harsh light of the mirror and make changes. I think all seven (founders) and Caroline Hall (who is referred to as the eighth founder) would look at us and say ‘you are on the right track.’”


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