Many participate in newly reorganized Lockeford Grange

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By Craig W. Anderson

The members of Lockeford Grange (No. 579) celebrated National Grange Month in April and the party’s still going on as the local members meet monthly for fellowship meals and to participate in assorted programs similar to those formerly offered by the county’s 4-H program.

When the University of California Cooperative Extension took over the local 4-H operation, it implemented COVID restrictions and other measures which made participating in 4-H difficult and restrictive. Members and leaders left 4-H to participate in Grange; according to Grange member Molly Watkins who explained,“There is still a San Joaquin 4-H program but it is dysfunctional and lacking in the family atmosphere the Grange program offers.”

“The local Grange programs seem to be providing the needs of families and kids interested in ag and that’s always good,” said San Joaquin Farm Bureau Second Vice President James Chinchiolo.

The Grange marked the 156th year of service, it is the nation’s oldest agricultural advocacy and rural service fraternity and Lockeford’s Grange Hall is the centerpiece of the local Grange membership from Lockeford, Ripon, Escalon and Woodbridge.

California’s state Grange was born July 15, 1873 in Napa and Granges in West San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sacramento, Napa and Turlock worked together to establish the new State Grange.

The Grange is an organization for the entire family which provides opportunities to interact with legislators to advocate for rural America and agriculture. The  state’s Grange mission then, and now, is to serve, steward and teach the virtues of the land to the state’s children and communities  via a commitment to grassroots advocacy, supporting farmland preservation, farm development, community service, sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and the consumer’s role in the food production system.

Grange policy recommendations are created and adopted locally, passed by State Granges, and forwarded to the National Grange that advocates for them with Congress and other federal agencies in the nation’s capital.

Currently, the national Grange is advocating on behalf of a pair of agricultural bills: the Dairy Pride Act that will require non-dairy products made from seeds, plants and algae to no longer be mislabeled with dairy terms such as milk, yogurt and cheese.

The other bill proposes a new rule that allows the voluntary “Product of – or made in  the USA” – label claims to be used on meat, poultry and egg products only when born, raised, harvested and processed in the United states.

“National Grange policy has long support such requirements,” the organization said in a statement.

And in 1982, to further youth participation, the State Grange adopted a resolution establishing the Youth Fair Program by working with the California State Fair and Exposition to create a Youth Fair Program as a sanctioned group on the same level as 4-H and FFA.

The mission of the program is to develop a greater understanding and appreciation for California’s agricultural abundance and to create and develop individual skills.

Exemplifying this program’s success is Amandataylor Morelos, a Lockeford Grange member from Tracy whose hampshire market hog was awarded the Champion 4-H/Grange Hog and the Supreme Champion Hog for the 2023 San Joaquin County AgFest Junior Livestock Show and Auction at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds in June.

Morelos graduated from Delta Charter School and will attend Tracy High School as a freshman in the fall, “Because it offers a good Ag program.”

She intends to continue as a three sport athlete – swimming, volleyball and basketball – in addition to continuing her Grange activities because, she said, “I really like the Grange program. Meeting for dinner with families once a month is particularly fun and shows good support for Grange.” She added, “The dinners are a major point to keep families involved.”

In addition to her super hog, Morelos had three outstanding hogs she raised and showed at the six-day AgFest. Her Hampshire was the Supreme Barrow in the Dave Luis Memorial Derby, was voted the very best hog in the show, her yorkshire market hog was the Champion Yorkshire Market Hog and her breeding dark cross commercial gilt was named the Supreme Champion Gilt.

About her future role in agriculture, Amandataylor said, “The future? I think something along the ag line…I don’t know exactly what but I’ll figure it out.

Her parents, Jennifer and Frank Morelos along with Amandataylor, joined the newly reorganized Lockeford Grange two years ago, a reorganization Watkins explained, “Took place in December of 2021. And now we have members from all over the county with about 20 families involved in the 149 year old club.”

Among the activities that keep the club interesting is a food fiesta, flower arranging, welding competitions, dinners at the Grange Hall on the third Thursday of the month a feast prepared by Watkins and other experienced chefs, speakers who bring the message of ag as a career, a cherry spitting contest with the winner – 25 feet – winning – what else? – a cherry pie, and attending the National Grange Leadership gathering at the Woodland tractor museum.

The 2023-24 Grange officers include youths (age 14 and up to be an officer) and adults. Y’s indicate Youths.

President-Colette Hansen [Y]; Vice President-Ashley Bottoms [Y]; Lecture-Taylor Montgomery [Y] – Watkins defined the Lecture: “The Lecture is the officer who sets the meeting activities, as the Gatekeeper back in the day sat outside the building and only let members inside!”; Steward-Frank Morelos ; Assistant Steward-Brock Montgomery [Y]; Lady Steward-Amandataylor Morelos [Y]; Gate Keeper-Cherie Stine-Glover; Chaplin-Mason Galliuzi [Y]; Treasurer-Angie Vana; Secretary-Molly Watkins; Executive Committee: 1 year term- Jissele Chivers; 2 year term-Jennifer Morelos; 3 year term-Jennifer Montgomery; Musician-Matthew Clary [Y]; Ceres-Jessica Hansen; Pomona-Awbrey Chivers [Y]; Flora-Amelia Chivers [Y].