Grassroots gathering: BriarPatch screens film to benefit Banner Grange |
Stephanie Mandel
Special to The Union

Grassroots gathering: BriarPatch screens film to benefit Banner Grange

Photo for The Union by John Hart

It could be a page from 19th century American history, but it's actually happening tomorrow: a consumer cooperative and a Grange chapter are teaming up for mutual support, outreach and fun.

The impetus for the alliance between BriarPatch Co-op and the Banner Grange is the screening of a new documentary film that traces the history of food co-ops from the Great Depression to the present.

It's titled, "Food for Change, the Story of Cooperation in America."

Presented by BriarPatch Co-op, the event is a benefit for the Banner Grange Hall, which is located on McCourtney Road in Grass Valley.

Co-ops and the Grange have a lot in common: food and farms, democratic roots, periods of decline and resurgence, and rich — yet not widely known — histories.

While early consumer cooperatives came and went throughout the 1800s, "Food for Change" begins with the Great Depression, which saw a great awakening of cooperative effort — people's very survival depended on it.

The rare archival footage in the film also makes for a fascinating look at America's past. The idealistic 1970s saw another big wave of food co-op start-ups — including BriarPatch, which was founded in 1976.

A third boom is happening now, both in new co-ops and also in the growth of existing stores, some of which have revived neighborhoods and even entire communities.

The Grange is a farmers' organization that was founded in 1867, in the wake of the Civil War, in order to improve the economic and social position of small family farmers. They advocated for fair prices for their crops, and set up grange halls all over the country.

Nevada County alone has three grange halls — Banner Grange, Empire Grange and Rough and Ready Grange — and there are 200 others in California.

Today, the California State Grange is taking an interest in the labeling of genetically engineered food in partnership with many other groups in actively supporting state labeling legislation.

The Banner Grange almost tripled its membership in 2013 and is working to sponsor meaningful events for the community, such as a seed swap they are holding at their hall Saturday.

For tomorrow's event, the doors will open at 6 p.m. for a reception and a presentation by the Banner Grange, then at 7 p.m. the 84-minute film will be shown. A donation of $5 for the Banner Grange is suggested for admission, and tickets can be bought at BriarPatch or at the door.

For more information, contact BriarPatch at 530-272-5333, ext. 127.

Stephanie Mandel is the marketing manager at BriarPatch Co-op. Visit to learn more.