What is the Grange?

Order of Patrons of Husbandry

The Grange, officially known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a fraternal organization with a rich history and a highly visible community presence in the United States.

Grassroots Organization

The Grange is a perfect example of a grassroots organization. The backbone of the Grange is the local “subordinate” or community Granges located across the country. These Granges offer a wide range of locally-oriented programs and activities for children, youth and adults. Each holds regular meetings where issues of community concern are discussed. They sponsor social events and community service projects.

On the county or regional level these local Granges band together into units known as Pomona Granges, primarily for discussion of concerns affecting a larger territory. On the statewide level, Granges cooperate by supporting a State Grange organization that conducts lobbying and other activities on behalf of all members in the state.

The National Grange owns an office building a couple of blocks from the White House. National programs are headquartered there, and the lobbying staff is active on Capitol Hill. For more information, see www.nationalgrange.org

Historical Summary

The Grange came into being in 1867 because of the vision of Oliver Hudson Kelley, a Minnesota farmer and activist.  He had long held that farmers, because of their independent and scattered nature, needed a national organization  to represent them like unions where beginning to do for industrial workers.

Farmers were at the mercy of merchants for needed farm supplies and for marketing their crops. Railroads and warehouse companies were taking advantage of farmers. Kelley and some of his friends organized the National Grange as a fraternal group similar to the Masonic lodge. The early leaders were responsible for promoting cooperatives, which had the potential of helping farmers economically.

From its earliest day, Grange lobbying efforts were effective; they remain a primary Grange service to rural America. By championing education, dramatic improvements were made in rural schools. The birth of the Extension Service, Rural Free Delivery, and the Farm Credit System were largely due to Grange lobbying.

The Grange at all levels is strictly non-partisan and does not endorse candidates for public office nor contribute to their campaigns. At the national level, the Grange actively lobbies for causes in accord with organizational policy. All policy within the Grange originates at the local level. Thus the organization remains as one of America’s best examples of democratic, grass-roots activism.

The primary legislative objective of the Grange is to represent the views of rural residents and the agricultural community. These issues include transportation, farm programs, rural economic development, education, health and safety concerns, and many others. Each year the policies are summarized and published in booklet form.

Early in its history Grange leaders realized that social interaction was especially important to rural residents. For 140 years Grange halls have existed as community centers where residents gather for educational events, town meetings, dances, potlucks, and entertainment. Junior Grange, 4-H, FFA, Boy Scout, Girl Scout and other youth groups have thrived because of Grange involvement. Each year tens of thousands Grange members give back to their community by participating in numerous service projects.

Important Dates in National Grange History

1867 The first nationwide farm organization and the first national organization to give full voice and vote to women, 60 years before the adoption of Universal Suffrage in the United States.
1870 The first national farm organization to attempt to organize African American farmers following the Civil War.
1871 Chicago entrepreneur Montgomery Ward begins his mail order business as a contractor to the National Grange selling exclusively to Grange members.
1874-on Grange sponsored fairs, attracting more than 1 million visitors each year, provide entertainment, education, a showcase for local agriculture production and community-based economic development opportunities.
1875-on Introduces the “Rochdale” system of cooperative business organization to America; over time, successful national and regional farm cooperative were formed from locally organized Grange cooperatives and Grange stores.
1876 Munn vs. Illinois U.S. Supreme Court decision affirms the constitutionally of Granger Laws to regulate railroads and other monopolies in the public interest.
1887-1919 Secures passage of legislation to protect the political and economic rights of farmers and consumers including: the Hatch Act creating “Experimental Stations” at state colleges of agriculture (1887), elevation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to the President’s Cabinet (1889), the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (1890), rural free delivery mail service (1901), the first legislation promoting ethanol as a motor fuel (1906), the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906), direct election of U.S. Senators (1913), federal income tax (1913), Smith-Lever Act for vocational education (1914), the Clayton Anti-Trust Act (1914), and Universal Suffrage (1919)
1914-on Secures passage of successive pieces of legislation to finance general transportation improvements to benefit farming and rural communities based on dedicated user fees deposited in highway, waterways and airport trust funds.
1916-1941 Secures passage of federal legislation to assist struggling farmers by strengthening their property rights and bargaining position including: the Federal Farm Loan Act (1916), the Packers and Stockyards Act (1921), Capper-Volstead Act (1922), the Grain Futures Act (1922), Farm Credit Act (1933), Produce Agency Act (1927), Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (1930), Agricultural Marketing Agreements act (1937), Pure Seed Act (1939), and the Livestock Theft Act (1941).
1920-1950 Organizes mutual insurance companies, focused on serving farm and rural markets, that were among the first to offer property and casualty insurance to Japanese-American farmers returning from internment following WWII.
1920-1980 Instrumental in organizing rural electric, telephone, and water service cooperatives, public utility districts, volunteer fire departments and state police programs.
1945-1970 Assists in rebuilding a world ravaged by economic depression and war.  Advised the U.S. delegation at the founding of the United Nations (1945). Helped found CARE (Cooperatives for American Relief Everywhere) (1946). The Grange/Germany Friendship program, a part of the U.S. Marshall Plan, brought more than 1700 German and European farm teenagers to live with Grange farm families to learn about modern agriculture practices and the advantages of democracy (1950-66). Participated in agriculture development programs for the U.S. Peace Corps (1963-70).
1947-on Steadfastly supported national farm legislation as well as multilateral trade negotiations and food aid programs to open foreign markets to U.S. farmers.  Advised Congress and supported every periodic re-authorization of national farm legislation, known as the “Farm Bill.” Gave counsel and support to every U.S. President on international discussions leading to multilateral trade agreements and international food aid programs such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the World Trade Organization, Food for Peace, the Caribbean Basin Initiative, North American Free Trade Agreement, and the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
1953-on Sponsored community service programs that generated more than 1 million volunteer hours annually for community improvement projects.

For Further Information

People, Pride and Progress: 125 Years of the Grange in America by David H. Howard(Washington, D.C.: National Grange, 1992). Hardback copies available through libraries or from the National Grange, 1616 H. St. NW, Washington, DC 20006. It is also available as an e-book.

Knights of the Plow: Oliver H. Kelley and the Origins of the Grange in Republican Ideology by Thomas A Woods (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1991). Available through libraries and bookstores. [Note: The “Republican ideology” mentioned in the title is not the Republican Party.]

Women of the Grange: Mutuality and Sisterhood in Rural America, 1866-1920 by Donald B. Marti (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991). Available through libraries and bookstores.

The Grange: Friend of the Farmer by Charles M. Gardner (Washington, D.C.: National Grange, 1949). Available through libraries and from the National Grange as a hardback or as an e-book.

Note: If your local library does not have the title you seek, ask them to secure it through Inter-Library Loan services.

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