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December 16. 2012 8:28PM

Grange looks to boost presence in Manchester

MANCHESTER - Officials with the New Hampshire Grange are organizing a new chapter for Manchester.

Stephen Tracy, organizing deputy for the state Grange, said the fraternal organization was able to sign up 17 new members at a meeting last week.

The Grange is planning a follow-up meeting for Jan. 6 at the Jutrus American Legion post on Boutwell Street.

According to its website, the National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry "is a family, community organization with its roots in agriculture. Founded in 1867, the Grange was formed as a national organization with a local focus. Our members are given the opportunity to learn and grow to their full potential as citizens and leaders."

The national membership peaked in the late 19th and early 20th century with nearly 1 million members. Today, national membership is about 200,000 in 2,700 local Granges, according to the National Grange website.

New Hampshire has about 1,778 members, said state President Jim Tetreault. The statewide membership peaked at 30,000 in the 1950s and dwindled since then, he said, but has picked up in the last year, as the state saw a "net gain" in membership in 2012, he said.

Tetreault said the Grange's existence in Manchester, a city of more than 100,000, is part of the organization's evolution from its focus on agriculture to its efforts in community service, educational programs and youth activities.

"The Grange has really moved beyond farming," said Tetreault, who said he is not a farmer.

"I'm lucky if I can stay home long enough to mow my own lawn. The values of the Grange are what are attracting new members."

"You're part of one big family. People take care of you," Tracy said.

The organization of a new Grange in Manchester comes as the city is scheduled to host the National Grange meeting in November 2013, Tracy said.

The event is scheduled for Nov. 12 through 16 at the Radisson Hotel at the Center of New Hampshire on Elm Street. Petreault said the last national meeting in New Hampshire was in 1913.

"We're very excited," he said of playing host to the National Grange.

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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