Business

One year later, San Juan Grange still on suspension

A project to build a permanent farmers market, however, is moving on without the state

A year has passed since the San Juan Island Grange was suspended.

In August 2007, the State Grange suspended the local Grange’s charter, citing “past actions” of local Grange officers and members.

A cooling-down period of a few months was decided upon after months of local wrangling over a proposed commercial venture on Grange-owned property on Spring Street.

The proposal was for a year-round farmers market, a farm-products store, as well as a business rental space.

However, the property was and is being rented by Carquest and All-Season Automotive. The issue was whether the new commercial venture would be able to meet or exceed the $3,000 monthly rent the Grange receives from Carquest, as well as pay for the cost of remodeling.

The State Grange also owns the Grange Hall on First Street, which is rented through Girl Friday.

A year has come and gone, and so far nothing has been done to restart the local Grange. In addition, workshops on Grange membership promised to local Grange members by the state master have not taken place.

Sophia Keller, executive assistant at the State Grange, said there is “no time frame” but assures that the local Grange will be restarted.

The Executive Committee and state Grange master will decide when to restart the local Grange.

The cooling-down period appears to be working, though; Keller said she hasn’t heard of any recent communication between San Juan Island Grange members and the State Grange.

A project to build a permanent farmers market, however, is moving on.

The San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild began in 2007, with its first project being the Permanent Farmers Market. It received a grant of $30,000 for feasibility studies and will soon begin the process of checking out sites, as well as preliminary architectural designs, for the Permanent Farmers Market.

There will be an update on the Permanent Farmers Market by Project Director Lovel Pratt in the Ag Tent at the San Juan County Fair, Saturday at 4 p.m.

None of the properties being considered for the Permanent Farmers Market are owned by the Grange, and the project is no longer involved in any way with the Grange. So that leaves the question: Why hasn’t the local Grange restarted?

Former State Grange Master Bob Clark of Sequim had an idea of why the Grange has not been restarted here. Grange Master Rob Horgen resigned in April to spend more time with his family, and longtime State Overseer June Hendrickson took over.

When Hendrickson became Grange master, she had to begin preparing for the 119th annual state convention in June. Now that the convention is done, there is a lot of work for the Washington State Grange to do.

“Their reluctance may hinge on that they haven’t decided what they are going to do,” Clark said. “This Executive Committee will probably not even consider anything in San Juan until their September or October meeting. ... there is a certain amount of work to be done statewide (after the state convention) before they even consider individual places like the San Juan Grange.”

When Clark was state Grange master, “I did have to close more than one Grange, but we usually tried to work with people if they were interested in restarting the Grange and making it active. We definitely wanted to foster that interest and get them back on board as a functioning Grange.”

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