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The Grange: Not just for farmers anymore
Despite Whidbey Island’s rich farming heritage, there’s a lack of longstanding grange halls on the island.
That may soon change if Chuck Prochaska, grange deputy manager of Island County, can round up enough folks to form a new grange in Coupeville and another in Oak Harbor.
Pioneer families established granges in the two island towns in 1874 and 1975, respectively, but those groups didn’t last, he said.
About 540 grange halls dotted Washington state at the organization’s peak in the 1930s and ‘40s. They helped with rural electrification efforts and in starting the state’s open primary election system, among other activities.
Locally, granges support farmers and rural interests. With the decline of the number of farm families, the number of granges in the state has declined to 260.
Prochaska hopes to reverse that trend, at least on Whidbey Island, which once hosted a handful of granges.
Deer Lagoon Grange No. 846 in Langley is the only one still in operation today, he said.
Proschaska’s research shows there was a North Whidbey Grange No. 881 chartered July 1, 1928. The list of officers for the following year showed Ben Ducken as master.
There was also a Juan de Fuca Grange No. 896 chartered in 1929. Proschaska believes the North Whidbey Grange consolidated with Juan de Fuca in 1933, with membership peaking at 123 in 1939. It relinquished its charter in 1958. Another grange, Ebey’s, apparently lost its charter in 1961.
Now, Prochaska hopes the grange can make a comeback in Oak Harbor and Coupeville.
“I believe that social conditions have changed. People are more interested,” he said. “Now is the right time for the grange.”
The grange caters to islanders’ broader interests, Prochaska said.
“It’s a family organization,” he said, describing the organization’s three “legs,” as family, community and legislative action.
Although a kick-off meeting held in Coupeville last month drew only two attendees, and another in Oak Harbor drew none, Prochaska is hopeful that the new grange charters will get off to a decent start.
Now’s the time to get in on the ground floor, he said. To stir up interest, he’s sent letters to families with old grange ties and he’s spreading the word that the modern grange is for everyone.
“It’s not just for farmers anymore,” he said. “I myself am an aerospace engineer.”
Contact Chuck Prochaska, 360-222-3110, for more information regarding the Coupeville or Oak Harbor grange charters.