After a 25-year hiatus, the Mountain Home Grange No. 285 near Potlatch has been resurrected to continue the long grassroots tradition of supporting agriculture and serving the community.
About 28 people showed up for the inaugural meeting in April and elected officers. Nancy Largent said the plan is to continue to meet once a month and schedule projects that can serve the entire area.
“Potlatch is a wonderful community to live in,” Largent said. “Everybody helps when something happens and (the Grange hall) would just be a good place to gather as a community.”
The Mountain Home Grange was founded in 1919 with 45 original members. It was part of the larger national network of Granges that helped promote agricultural issues, as well as providing a social hub for all kinds of activities — from family reunions and wedding receptions to candidate forums and farm and craft fairs.
The Grange was founded in 1867 as a fraternal, nonpartisan organization open to anyone age 14 and older interested in agriculture, rural concerns and bettering the community. Granges never endorse political candidates but members do work on policy issues through a grassroots vetting process.
Jan Krall, secretary of the Idaho State Grange, said there are currently about 22 granges in the state — less than half of the number of Granges from three decades ago. In this area, besides the Grange at Potlatch, there also are Granges in Moscow, Kendrick and Idaho County.
“Over the years, some of the (members) of the Granges have gotten too old and they can’t take care of their hall,” Krall said, explaining the sharp decline in membership and chapters.
“We do still support the farmers and do legislative stuff,” Krall said. “We belong to the food producers (organizations) and the legislators really look for our opinions on things.”
Until the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year, she said, the state Grange held an annual legislators’ banquet, which was always well attended.
Although the Mountain Home Grange was an active community center during its heyday, by the 1980s, it suffered much the same fate as many other service and fraternal organizations.
“They were just not having participation and the majority of the members were getting old, in their 80s and 90s, and then they passed away so there just wasn’t a lot of activity,” Largent said.
Many community groups also were unable to attract younger members.
“When I was younger, there were lots more fun things to do than belong to the Grange,” Largent said.
Even though the formal Grange disbanded, the building, located about 5 miles north of Potlatch, continued in occasional use for various activities. But it wasn’t until recently when the Latah County commissioners decided to revoke the Grange’s tax-exempt property tax status as a fraternal organization that several people decided to take another look at the situation.
“So we were trying to figure out how to keep the building a community building, and so I got in contact with the state Grange,” Largent said.
Under Grange by-laws, whenever a Grange is disbanded, the land it’s located on is intended to revert back to the original landowner.
Largent said her committee was never able to locate a current landowner.
“So we kind of all got together and decided to make it a good community building, which was what we all wanted, and to reorganize the Grange and try to get the community involved.”
The initial turnout in April was encouraging. Largent said the group is hoping to find other ways to attract newer and younger members.
“I think that we’re going to probably try to get the building fixed up a little bit. It needs a lot of work,” Largent said. “And try to get people going that are kind of new. It will be a learning experience for everybody, I think.”
Meetings are scheduled for the second Monday of every month beginning at 6:30 p.m. Largent can be reached at (208) 596-1524.
Hedberg may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 983-2326.