Most of us don’t actually know what The Grange is. Sure, we know The Grange’s little sage-green building tucked next to the fire stations on 3rd Street in Hailey. But we don’t really know what it’s all about.

Manon Gaudreau was once one of us clueless folks. That changed in 2014 when she realized that the Grange was one of 2,000 Granges in the USA. She became a member and soon realized the invaluable—and often overlooked—roles the Grange plays locally.

“To me, The Grange means community,” Manon said in her French-Canadian accent.  Manon is a certified master gardener who grew up Quebec. She moved to Hailey in 2010. Joining the Grange made her feel connected with the community.

“Grange people are very welcoming and caring,” said Manon, who now serves as their treasurer and webmaster. “I love the Grange mission: Cultivating connections & building community.”

The Upper Big Wood River Grange #192 was founded in 1924. Part of the non-profit National Grange foundation, Hailey’s chapter was originally focused around connecting farmers and ranchers. After a bit of a lull, the Hailey Grange has been invigorated recently, playing roles in the local food movement, creating a massive seed library and hosting a wide variety of events.

Events held at the Grange Hall —which will hopefully return soon—include square and contra-dances, 4-H and Cub Scouts activities, community meetings and luncheons, the Fourth of July Pancake breakfast, family and life celebrations, gardening, seed saving and craft workshops, Tai Chi classes, and dance lessons.

The Grange is also home to the Wood River Seed Library.  The Seed Library’s purpose is to grow, save and share seeds for free within the community. Locally produced seeds are adapted to our local environment and weather and by preserving these seeds it allows for a diversity of plant species for the future.  The Seed Library’s role has been especially important recently as there has been a worldwide seed shortage. Seed and plant exchanges have been planned for both April and May.

The Grange also supports the local food movement through education. The Grange is teaming up with the 5B Resilience Initiative, the Local Food Alliance and the Hailey Public Library to offer a series of free online gardening webinars this spring. The Grange has created a new Community Garden behind their building. The garden is used as an educational facility. 

The big Rocky Mountain Douglass fir that stands next to The Grange has recently been named the first Heritage Tree in Hailey. Estimated to be 65 years old and 55-feet tall, the native, drought-tolerant tree is a beautiful symbol for The Grange and all it quietly does to make our community stronger.

The Grange is always welcoming new members and donations of any kind, money, materials or time. 

“There are so many people who have become dear to my heart because of The Grange.” Manon said. “Helping people realize they belong to such a kind and caring community is what The Grange is really all about.”

For more information about events, becoming member, go to grange.org/upperbigwoodriverid192 or check out their Facebook page.

By Mike McKenna

Chamber Corners appear bi-weekly in the Wood River Weekly