The Halcyon Grange: Then & Now
The Grange organization is committed to serving local farming interests and improving economic and social opportunities for rural families. More broadly, the organization empowers individuals and families to develop their talents in order to build stronger communities.
For over a century, the Halcyon Grange has served the community both through the active volunteerism of its members and through its vital role as a community gathering space for meetings, suppers, educational events, and other social functions.
Chartered in 1898, the Halcyon Grange is a local chapter of the National Grange, the oldest agricultural advocacy group on a national scale. The National Grange was formed in 1867 to unify farmers from the north and south in a spirit of mutual cooperation. State and local Granges played a major role in advocating for rural communities on issues such as railroad transportation regulation and free rural mail delivery. The Grange is nonprofit and non-partisan, and was unique from the outset in providing equal opportunity to women and men, with women encouraged to serve as officers.
At a time when Grange membership has dwindled nationally, a resurgence of interest in local food, farming, and community has attracted new members to the Halcyon Grange, including young farming families and their supporters. There has also been renewed community interest in the Grange Hall as a valued space for social, economic, and educational activities and interactions. The Halcyon Grange is well- positioned to revitalize its role as a vibrant community center and vehicle for the economic development of local food producers.
New members, Peter and Linda Nelson: “Linda and I moved to North Brooksville permanently in August of 2015. Our introduction to the Grange was a Farmer’s & Homesteader’s pot luck dinner: ‘Public Welcome.’
Being public, and wishing to become more public, we went, ate, laughed and met a number of good, friendly people, and nice kids.
Now we are members. On a small scale, Linda and I are beginning various agricultural pursuits. The Halcyon Grange is still very much agriculturally-centered, and Linda and I are interested in support of local farming; a vital part of Maine’s future.
We’ll do what we can to help Halcyon Grange grow, and continue to act as a vital part of the Peninsula community.”
Our Vision for our Community/Commercial Kitchen facility:
Imagine a community/commercial kitchen where farmers and homesteaders can transform surplus crops into new “Made in Maine” specialty food items. Imagine a winter farmers’ market that offers community members an opportunity to connect with producers and one another in the off-season. Imagine a grade school or home-schooled group of children learning how to make and preserve applesauce in a spacious kitchen where each child can see and participate in the process. Imagine a family reunion where relatives can prepare an entire meal on site, and all generations can access the upper floor to watch a slide show or a family skit. Imagine an accessible site for a local organization’s annual meeting where volunteers can cook hors-d’oeuvres on site instead of transporting cumbersome platters from home or having the event catered by an outside service.
This list of potential uses of the Grange Hall and Kitchen is based on the real need for a year-round, accessible, gathering space and a shared-use kitchen facility in our community. There are few affordable places in the community that currently serve this need, and the mission of the Grange is well-suited to meeting this demand.
Colleen Prentiss of Old Ackley Farm: “One reason why the Grange is in our life? For my 6 -year-old son, Charlie. The Grange is a place where he can help in meaningful ways. He washes dishes, puts them away, sets tables, brings out plates, and shovels snow. He interacts with the adults who are also engaged in meaningful work. And he knows what the Grange events are about – whether it’s a fundraiser for Zander’s educational study adventure, or for Food for Maine’s Future. Whether it’s a benefit for our friend David, whose house burnt down, or for one of the Grange’s BBQs. Or recently, a luncheon for the folks who attended a funeral. These are all opportunities for Charlie and myself, to be a part of our community. To serve, to become more aware, and to grow stronger.”
The Halcyon Grange has focused on meeting community needs by addressing three major improvements to our building:
1. Community Kitchen
Development of a shared-use community kitchen facility was at the heart of our past capital project. Expanding and renovating the Grange’s kitchen greatly increased the functionality of the Grange for a broad range of community members, from individuals who need space and equipment to process and preserve food for the winter months to groups who wish to host or attend a variety of educational workshops and social events.
Our community/commercial kitchen has been built and equipped to commercial standards and functions as a commercial “incubator” facility to support small-scale economic development.
Our kitchen sees a wide area of community interest, from using the facility commercially to process products ranging from baked goods and jams to lard and honey, to community members offering educational workshops.
Some testimonials about the Kitchen:
- This would allow me to really expand my business: jams, jellies, sauces, soups, baked goods—I would definitely use it.”
For my bakery business, the Grange offers a certified commercial kitchen, with a commercial mixer, hotel oven, and clean well-lighted work space, as well as necessary utensils and equipment enabling me to produce my products in a professional and efficient setting, allowing me to hire one or two helpers, and lowering my overall costs while increasing production.
Sandolini Buckwheat Crackers
Using the Halcyon Grange Community Kitchen is so wonderful! It’s super clean, and has lots of open space to spread out and create my added-value products. I’m so happy to have this valuable resource available to me as a small farm business. I would not be able to operate without the kitchen, as the cost of upgrading and certifying my home kitchen is beyond the reach of my small business. Yvonne, the organizer is very accommodating and attentive to my needs while using the kitchen. Lastly, the cost of renting the kitchen is very reasonable and works within my budget. Thank you to all the Grange members and members of the larger community who supported this project in its completion!– Rachel at Meristem Herb Co
- “I call on memories [of growing up on a farm] when I cook, and I cook with as much local product as possible. I would love to teach folks baking and putting by food. Memories and cooking can keep deep traditions living.”
2. Insulation/Window Replacement
The Grange has upgraded to energy-efficient insulation which allows the facility to be used year-round, providing a clear benefit not only to Grange members but also to any community member or organization seeking an affordable gathering or event space and a kitchen in the winter months. An energy-efficient, year-round facility also indirectly benefits the community as a whole by encouraging increased social activity in the wintertime. For the first time, this winter, we were able to offer monthly social events at our Grange. All were very well attended and we got great feedback about our winter activities and how welcome they were during the long winter months.
The installation of a ramp has made our facility accessible to those with disabilities and has made it possible for all community members to participate in Grange events and meetings. We are exploring the possibility of installing an elevator which would benefit elder and disabled members of our community, allowing them to participate in meetings and events on the 2nd floor of the building.
Member Marilyn Plowman of Rock & Pebble Farm: “I moved alone to Penobscot about 6 years ago. I knew no one. Although nearly 70 years old, I wanted to pursue my childhood dream to become a farmer. In my first litter of 16 piglets, one was injured. I called Joan, a local vet, who repaired that little cutie and suggested I seek out Deb, a local pig farmer, for any information or guidance I needed. Deb taught me the basics of castration, a necessary skill for a pig farmer. Joan and Deb, both members of the Halcyon Grange suggested I go to a meeting because they were a nice bunch of people. I did and they were. I am now an active member of the grange and really enjoy working and laughing with that ‘nice bunch of people.'”
Community members are invited to contribute via check or online donation. Contribution checks should be made out to Halcyon Grange #345 and mailed to:
Elise Schellhase, Secretary
c/o Halcyon Grange #345
347 Kingdom Road
Blue Hill, Maine 04614
Online donations can be made via this website using the Donate button at the top, right side of the page.
Thank you for your support! Your generosity enables the Halcyon Grange to better support the needs of our farming families while serving the interests of the greater community.