Whether aware of it or not, many of our guests find their way to the October Country Inn (check us out) to connect with nature and the rural spirit that envelopes our corner of Vermont. Whether aware of it or not, are countless opportunities and varieties of ways to connect with Vermont’s nature and spirit. One way unfolds before your eyes as you drive down almost any local road. Agriculture abounds. In partnership with nature, farming is baked into Vermont’s roots and its spirit–both past and present–and is indelibly housed in the nearby Bridgewater Corners Grange. You could drive by this unassuming 1875 era building nestled next to the Ottauquechee River without any clue as to its historical significance.
From its 17th century beginnings in the U.S., agriculture has always been a significant economic enterprise. After the Civil War, much of rural New England was locked in a downward spiral of popularion decline, abandonment of farms, reversion of cleared land to forest and shrinking of villages, all of which contributed to widespread feelings of melancholy and loss among its residents. The economy was struggling and farming was even more difficult than before the war. Unlike farming, industry in the north had grown tremendously from supplying the war effort, and had amassed significant economic leverage. In response, in 1867, the National Grange of the Order of the Patrons of
Husbandry was founded. It published a Declaration of Purposes that identified middlemen and monopolists as the economic enemies of farmers, urged farmers to engage in crop diversification and economic cooperation, and declared the Grange to be nonpartisan. Using the force of numbers to negotiate for cheaper prices worked well for awhile. As a result, the Grange movement grew quickly and reached its maximum of 760,000 members within ten years of its founding. However, disorganization, poor communication, and greed led to an equally rapid decline. After its main focus of maximizing a farmer’s profits was tempered with more focus on advocacy for the agricultural profession, education, and general community enrichment, the Grange movement again began to grow, and remains to this day as a lighthouse signaling the importance and value of community in rural America. Keep your eye out for the Bridgewater Corners Grance during your local travels. It’s on Vermont Route 100A, just south of the Country Store, and north of the Mennonite Church.